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Council tax in Monmouthshire could increase by 7.5%

COUNCIL tax in Monmouthshire could rise by 7.5 per cent this year – which would deliver an extra £5.4 million towards a £21.9m budget shortfall. 

For households that would mean those living in a band D property would have to pay an extra £117.35 from April which the Labour-led cabinet has said works out at a £2.26 per week increase. 

That current £1,564.66 band D charge, for county council services which doesn’t include additional payments to local town or community councils and Gwent Police, would rise to £1,682.01. 

The council estimates 64 per cent of households will have to pay the charge in full with the remaining 36 per cent benefitting from some form of reduction. 

A report to the cabinet by the council’s chief finance officers is clear that the council isn’t receiving enough money to continue to fund all the services it currently does and states: “This year, the choices are stark: our funding will not cover all the services we provide in their current form.” 

In addition to raising council tax it is also planned to make £8.4m in cuts and changes to services though the cabinet is promising savings to social care, homelessness, and children’s additional learning needs will be made with “careful consideration” to “minimising impact, and prioritising support for those in greatest need”. 

The report states: “Services that are available to residents this year will be available in 2024/25. Waste collections will remain the same. Leisure centres, recycling centres, libraries and community hubs are all remaining open.” 

The cabinet is due to agree its draft budget when it meets on Wednesday, January 17 and it will be subject to a four week consultation, closing on February 15 by which time it says it will also need to receive any alternative proposals. That is so they 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. 

Consultation meetings will be held across the county and people can also take part in online meetings and complete a survey while council committees will look at the proposals in detail. 

Cuts and the council tax increase will account for £13.8m of the shortfall which is reduced by a further £6m due to the 2.3 per cent increase in the council’s funding from the Welsh Government, which is worth £2.68m in cash terms, a reduction in energy and borrowing costs, and plans to raise an extra £800,000 through increasing discretionary fees and charges, including a 10 per cent rise in parking and permit charges and increased trade waste fees. 

Of the £8.4m cuts the biggest reduction will be in the social care and health directorate whose budget will be slashed by £4.7m while the children and young people budget will reduce by £1.617m. 

Among the proposed cuts are the withdrawal of the remaining £39,000 the council provides to the Gwent Music service – after it more than halved its funding last year but a hardship fund will be maintained. 

The childcare costs for youngsters attending school breakfast clubs will also double to £2, another increase revived from last year’s budget, though the breakfast itself is free. 

Households will also have to pay for food waste bags, which are currently provided for free, but will be charged “at cost” while garden waste collections charges will increase by 10 per cent, in line with a decision made last February to recover the full cost of the service. 

It’s also planned to close two museums for an additional day a week, Tintern Old Station would also close on Mondays from April, other than the four bank holidays, while leisure centres could close at 9.30pm during the week and at 4.30pm on weekends. 

There is also uncertainty over the future of the Gilwern outdoor education centre with the cabinet proposing to save £70,000 by moving “to a more sustainable model for the outdoor adventure service”. 

Funding for schools is to increase by 2.5 per cent but it is acknowledged the council cannot “fully fund” inflationary costs and they will still have to make efficiency savings while the council hopes to reduce additional learning needs costs by reducing out of county placements through more use of local schools and support. 

Changes in adult social care include a reduction in some services, reviewing care packages and increasing the £100 a week charge for those receiving non-residential care by £20 if an all-Wales charging cap is lifted, though it would still be subject to an individual financial assessment. 

It’s planned to use £2.8m of capital receipts – that is the money received from the sale of council assets – to fund revenue costs associated with what are called “organisational change” or the restructuring of services to make savings. 

But the cabinet says it is sticking to its plan not to make one-off raids on reserves to support day-to-day spending in 2024/25, with some £5m from the rainy day fund and asset sales having been used to prop up the current budget.  

Only £500,00 will be used from reserves this year for one off expenditure to support the production of the long term planning policy, the Local Development Plan, and previously allocated funding to support Ukrainian refugees. 

Changes proposed that could lead to additional start up costs include a review of home to school transport which could see the council bring all routes using vehicles with eight seats or fewer in house while its also planned to raise an extra £3,000 by increasing the cost of concessionary seats on home to school transport by 10 per cent.

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