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Proposed 7.5% council tax rise for Monmouthshire set to increase more

A PROPOSED 7.5 per cent council tax rise is now set to increase again – adding £4 to a typical annual bill that was already going to cost an extra £117. 

Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour-led cabinet is set to agree to propose the further increase as a result of changes to its budget that will reverse a planned £835,000 cut to school budgets. 

A plan to start charging residents for food waste bags has also been axed over fears it could hit the county’s recycling rate and lead to heavy fines while it will borrow a further £57,000 to support a £1.65 million programme to repair the council’s roads and bridges. 

The cabinet will be asked to agree the changes when its meets on Wednesday, February 28 and recommend the new 7.8 per cent council tax increase and the revised budget, totalling £220 million, to the full council for its approval the following day.  

Bumping up the council tax increase will generate a further £202,000 on top of the £5.4 million extra that the previously-planned 7.5 per cent rise would have raised. It will mean a current £1,564.66 band D council tax bill will now increase by £122.04 a year rather than the £117.35 originally planned.  

A report for the cabinet states: “That, together with other proposed changes, will protect vital local services and our most vulnerable residents in the county.” 

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The increase works out at an extra £2.35 a week, or £9.40 a month, and is before additional charges from the police and town and community councils are added to make the final bill. 

The council will also benefit from a share of an extra £25 million in funding for Wales as a result of the UK Government providing a further £500 million to councils in England to address escalating social care costs. 

The Welsh Government has agreed to use £10 million of that to restore a social care workforce grant to its original level, with the remainder allocated to the local government settlement. Monmouthshire anticipates it will be provided with a further £631,000. 

While it wasn’t intended to make any further draw of reserves in the original budget, in recognition of the heavy reliance on them in the current year, limited use is now planned. 

That will see £400,000 from a fund established to support Ukrainian refugees transferred to meet “anticipated eligible costs” and £125,000 from the reserve related to the council tax premium on empty and second homes used for “legitimate one-off cost” for homeless accommodation. 

It will also use £685,000 from the sale of council assets to support “service reform and redesign”. 

It is proposed to reverse the £835,000 cut to school budgets in full following a public consultation on the budget and responses from headteachers and governors. 

The report stated: “Cabinet have listened to the feedback from all stakeholders and understand the impact that this saving would have on the school environment and the ability for schools to support our most vulnerable learners at a time of increasing need.” 

Continued demand for care home placements, and the complexity of need, has also resulted in the budget recognising those costs are likely to increase by £600,000 which is now accounted for. 

Figures show 5,506, or 12.8 per cent, of council taxpayers benefit from the council tax reduction scheme, and 14,891 people, or 34.7 per cent are in receipt of the 25 per cent single person discount, and it is intended people take up the support and that will be monitored. 

Budget risks include management of a deficit in the current year’s £12.3 million savings target, with only 85 per cent having been achieved by month nine of the current financial year, and continued demand on services, especially children’s and adults social care.

Increased budget monitoring and reporting introduced this year will be maintained. 

The possibility that nationally agreed pay increases may not be fully funded by the Welsh or UK Governments is also identified, while final confirmation the UK Government will fully fund an increase in teachers’ pensions is still awaited. 

The medium term financial plan, which the council will start, addressing shows a projected £24.6 million shortfall in funding through to the end of the 2027/28 financial year.

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