A series of budget cuts – along with a new £25 charge for green bin collections – were backed by councillors this morning.
Members of the executive board unanimously voted in favour of implementing the £1.4 million pound of cuts over the next two years.
A series of other T2 (Tier 2) proposals will also go out for further consultation and a decision will be made after the draft local government settlement is announced at the end of the year.
These amount to savings of £913k for 2020/21 and £140k for 2021/22.
Over the past decade more that £62 million of cuts have been made to local council services, along with the loss of 600 full-time jobs.
However speaking at the special ‘extraordinary executive board meeting’ this morning, Leader of Wrexham Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard, warned that a further £10 million will need to be found in the next two years.
But it was the introduction of a £25 fee for households that want their green bins / garden waste collected, that raised the most concerns amongst members.
A £30 charge had been consulted upon during the difficult decisions process last year. However at the time the council chose not to progress with the proposal – despite just over 30 per cent of participants saying they disagreed with it.
The meeting was told an estimated that £500,000 will be raised next year subject to 45 per cent of residents paying for their green bins.
Cllr Alun Jenkins, Offa ward, said the council was “opening itself up to great criticism” if it says it will “collect some rubbish but have to pay for the rest.”
He also questioned why green bin collection isn’t part of the service provided through council tax and warned that residents will use their black bins to dispose of their garden waste.
Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell, noted that other local authorities across Wales had already introduced charges for green bin collection and that it isn’t a discretionary service.
He also explained that in recent years there had been a decrease in Welsh Government funding.
He added: “What I would say is when compare charge for a green bin to tother local authorities, some charge £36 – £39 and in England it’s £40.
“We want people to take up the offer to have their garden waste collected at the kerbside.
“Alternatively, if people don’t want to pay the charge then that’s their choice, and at our three civic amenity sites, they can take that free of charge.”
In a now familiar exchange between Cllr Jenkins and Cllr Pritchard, the Offa councillor reiterated his calls for the local authority to increase council tax in a bid to generate more money for services.
He said: “We have to take difficult decision making with savings with statutory services.
“Despite that we agreed to have council tax increase of just 5.5 per cent.
“If we have been bolder – and I was suggesting a nine per cent – then maybe some of these problems facing us could be avoided.
“I regret that we haven’t been out explaining to the public on how deep the financial hole is.
“I just wish we had taken advantage of putting it to the public and getting the debate of ‘do you want to pay more council tax or want to see more services going’ ”
But Cllr Pritchard hit back at these comments and said that there are people in Wrexham who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Cllr Pritchard continued: “Wrexham is a mixed place, there’s some wealth, there’s some middle-class and there’s some poverty. So you have to build a budget that is fair to all, but balanced.
“Some of your comments on council tax frightens me that you would say we have to set council tax up to pay for the services.
“To keep us as we are and be sustainable, we would have to go up to 14 per cent council tax. We can’t do it, people can’t afford it.
“It’s not all about the council tax, we have to balance it all. You’re right it will have to increase, but people can only afford a certain level.”
“If have that much passion speak to AMs and MPs and ask them. This is not of our own making.”
Cllr Frank Hemmings, Chirk North, questioned whether there could be a commitment that £25 could be a fixed rate for the next few years so households can plan in advance.
Cllr Pritchard noted there would be discussions about that going forward. He also agreed that a timetable of when the T1 cuts would be implemented could be circulated to councillors.
Top pic: Green bin in Wrexham falls over open mouthed in shock at new £25 charge
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