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Taxpayers Alliance launches campaign against 16.3% Pembrokeshire council tax hike

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is to target Pembrokeshire ahead of the county facing a potential 16.3 per cent council tax increase (Pic: Pixabay)

A UK campaign group is to target Pembrokeshire ahead of the county facing what the group says would be the largest council tax increase in England and Wales in more than a decade.

At the February meeting of the county council’s Cabinet, members backed a council tax increase in Pembrokeshire of 16.3 per cent.

The proposed increase, which will be decided by full council at its March 7 meeting, would see the basic council tax level – before town/community precepts and the police precept are included – rise by £219.02 for the average Band D property, taking it to £1,561.98.

It is expected to be the highest percentage rate in Wales, on top of previous Pembrokeshire increases of 12.5 per cent, 9.92 per cent, five per cent, 3.75 per cent, five per cent and 7.5 per cent.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has launched a campaign against the proposed increase, and will be in Milford Haven on Thursday, February 29, and Friday, March 1, delivering leaflets and speaking to residents about the proposed increase.

TPA research says that if the tax rise is agreed, it will be the largest in England and Wales since 2012-13, when referendum principles were agreed.

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England differs from Wales in having a cap, needing a referendum for any rate above five per cent for the 2024-25 financial year.

Taxpayers Alliance says Pembrokeshire’s proposal would be the largest percentage increase in Wales since 2000-01 and the third largest since 1997-98.

The only larger rises were in 2000-01 and 1998-99, when Monmouthshire and Powys county councils increased their council tax by 23.15 per cent and 17.5 per cent respectively, the group says.

At the February meeting of Pembrokeshire’s Cabinet, potential rises of 18.94 per cent, and an eye-watering 20.98 were mooted, which would have placed the county in second place.

The TPA is calling on residents in Pembrokeshire to write to the leader of the council, Cllr David Simpson, expressing their opposition to the proposals.

Council Leader David Simpson (Pic: Pembrokeshire County Council)

Benjamin Elks, grassroots development manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This record-busting rate rise would deal a devastating blow to household finances in Pembrokeshire.

“Local taxpayers face being punished for the council’s failure to find efficiencies, cut down on waste and balance the books.

“Councillors should show some backbone, stand up for their residents and say no to this ruinous tax hike.”

Pembrokeshire, currently facing a projected funding gap of £31.9m, has historically had the lowest council tax in Wales.

For comparison, the current 2023-’24 average Band D base council tax – before police and town/community council parts of the overall bill are included – for Pembrokeshire is £1,342.86, compared to Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire at £1,553.60 and £1,490.97 respectively.

If the council had Ceredigion’s level of council tax for 2023-24, it would have had an additional £11.758m income and if it had Carmarthenshire’s it would have had an additional £8.264m.

Neighbouring Ceredigion is recommended to back an 11.1 per cent increase at its full council meeting of February 29.

Cllr Alec Cormack, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance (Pic: Pembrokeshire county Council webcast)

Pembrokeshire Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Cllr Alec Cormack said: “For 2024-25, Pembrokeshire County Council is facing additional demand pressures in statutory services (adult and children’s social care, homelessness and education). This means we need an extra £17m to provide these services next year – this alone is equivalent to an increase of over 26 per cent on council tax. Additionally, we face inflationary pressures of £22.8m.

“Our funding gap, after the AEF money we’ll receive from Welsh Government, is £31.9m.

“We are legally required to balance our budget – to match the amount of money coming in against what we spend to provide services. We are planning to make savings on our spending of £12.2m, as well as utilising some council tax premiums to enhance the sustainability of our communities.

“This has allowed us to limit the council tax rise to 16.31 per cent. This weighs up the need to limit council tax rises on residents against the need to preserve services used by many of the most vulnerable people in the county.

“The demand pressures, particularly in social care, are affecting all councils in Wales, but particularly Pembrokeshire, since we have had the lowest council tax in Wales for decades.

“Based on current information, we expect Pembrokeshire to still have one of the lowest council tax levels – probably 18th out of the 22 Welsh local authorities.”

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