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Cabinet gives approval to final budget measures including 7.5% council tax rise

Carmarthenshire County Council

A COUNCIL tax rise of 7.5% looks ever more likely in Carmarthenshire after the council’s cabinet agreed a final set of budget measures for 2024-25.

Cabinet members said the rise, which would mean a Band D householder paying £1602.80p – although this excludes the Dyfed-Powys Police precept – was higher than anyone wanted but that it was lower than the increase proposed by a number of other councils in Wales. It would follow a 6.8% council tax rise at the start of the current financial year last April.

Council leader Darren Price said he felt local authorities were in “an impossible position” because central government funding, which pays for around 75% of council’s day-to-day running costs, wasn’t keeping up with inflation and pay awards set at national rather than local level. It was coming to a point, said the Plaid Cymru leader, that “fundamental questions” needed to be asked about how public services looked in the coming years.

Carmarthenshire Council is due to receive an extra 3.3% of core government funding compared to the current year to finance the majority of its £479.9 million budget for 2024-25, with £122.5 million coming from council tax.

An earlier proposal to increase council tax by 6.5% was shelved following a public consultation. Many of the 4,200-plus people who responded were worried about planned budget cuts, so cabinet proposed deferring some of them to the following year. This meant extra money had to be found, hence the extra 1% hike in council tax, plus the use of some money held in reserve.  The deferred savings are:

  • £1 million from the delegated schools budget
  • £423,000 of cuts to highways and drainage maintenance budgets
  • A £210,000 funding cut for public toilets
  • A £100,000 reduction to the youth support service
  • A £100,000 reduction to the music service budget.

In addition, an extra £2 million will be drawn from reserve to fund residential children’s placements. But despite all this the council still reckons that £10.8 million of savings will be needed.

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Cllr Alun Lenny, cabinet member for resources, said of the financial situation: “It’s every bit as hard as the worst years of the austerity era.” He added that councils would have to partially fund teachers’ pay rises, which would add further budget pressures.

Cllr Lenny said more than twice as many people had responded to the budget consultation than ever before. He felt the revised proposals struck the right balance, but said he acknowledged that residents were finding things tough.

Cllr Glynog Davies, cabinet member for education, said his portfolio was getting the “biggest hit ever” after years of its budget being protected, and that managerial cuts would take place in every department. He said: “Some of the managerial proposals are bound to have a direct impact (on services) – that’s unquestionable in my personal opinion.”

The Welsh Government is due to publish its final settlement for councils on February 27, after which full council will set the 2024-25 budget.

Last week the Labour opposition group said it was concerned about the revised measures now approved by cabinet. Labour leader, Cllr Deryk Cundy, said deferred savings would still need to be addressed in the years to come, and that the 7.5% council tax rise was higher than expected. “Although they may save some services for a year, they are not addressing the underlying problems that Carmarthenshire face,” he said.

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