A BUDGET including a potential £117 increase on a typical council tax bill and £8.4 million in cuts has been agreed by top councillors.
A consultation will now open on the budget plan proposed by Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour-led cabinet which will allow residents to have their say on how it intends to operate with the cost of running services having increased by £21.9 million.
Cllr Ben Callard, the cabinet member for finance, said a 7.5 per cent rise in the council tax – which works out at an £117.35 a year for a band D home from April or £2.26 a week – proposed as part of the budget that cabinet is putting forward will allow it to maintain services.
He said: “We’ve fought hard to try and keep the increase in the council tax as low as possible but are committed to protecting valued public services and an increase of 7.5 per cent does that.”
He said the council had drawn down on reserves to support its day-to-day spending over the past decade which it could no longer do, but increasing council tax will allow it to keep libraries and community hubs open and maintain the frequency of waste collections.
It is also supporting costs related to changing and reorganising services with £2.8 million in capital receipts from the sale of council assets.
But Cllr Callard said “tough choices” have had to be made and he said the cabinet had been caused “some concern” that it could only increase funding for education by 2.5 per cent which he said is “less than we would like and know will increase pressures on delegated school budgets.”
The council’s funding from the Welsh Government is only growing by 2.3 per cent, below the Welsh average of three per cent, and which only provides it with an additional £2.68 million while the council tax increase will provide an extra £5.4 million.
It’s also planned to raise a further £800,000 from increased charges for parking and garden waste collections, and making people pay for food waste bags, while museum and leisure centre opening hours will be reduced.
Cllr Callard said while the council “understood the constraints” on the Welsh Government’s budget he said it was: “Disappointed with the draft settlement and continues to press for an increase” in its funding.
Both Cllr Callard, and council leader Mary Ann Brocklesby, in response to Conservative opposition leader Richard John said the council had lobbied the Welsh Government directly and indirectly through the Welsh Local Government Association over its funding.
Cllr John also told the cabinet: “It does feel like for a second year running the burden of the budget cuts seems to fall on children and young people, that’s really unfair.”
Cllr Callard said impact assessments have been published and said the Tory leader had asked a “good question” which the cabinet was conscious of but also said the budget also reflected the county’s ageing population and decline in those aged 14 and under.
He also told Cllr John he would “encourage him to lobby his friend, the Secretary of State for Wales”, the Monmouth MP David Davies, for more funding for Wales.
Public and online events, as well as a survey, will be available for people to comment on the budget before the consultation closes on February 15 so any alternative proposals can be tested against future generation and an equality impact in time for the full council meeting on February 29 which will be asked to agree the budget.