Council look for backing from public to raise council tax ‘to support essential frontline services’
Wrexham Council are asking for you views on council tax, stating they are ‘heavily dependent on Welsh Government grant’ and if that funding is not deemed enough, the local tax will go up.
In the recently launchd ‘Difficult Decisions’ consultation Wrexham Council give residents a quick reminder on what Council tax is; a locally raised tax that is payable on all domestic properties made up of three separate elements – a Wrexham County Borough Council charge, a North Wales Police Authority charge and a Community Council charge.
The amount paid is dependent on the ‘Band’ into which a property has been placed. These bands range from ‘A’ to ‘I’; with ‘A’ being the lowest charge up to ‘I’ being the highest charge made. Reductions are also made where a person lives alone or a property is vacant.
For 2020/21 Wrexham Council explain they are ‘considering a range of options’ including rising council tax by 5.5%.
They explain this move is “due to the ongoing pressure on ongoing austerity” adding, “We understand that budgets are tight for everyone, however in order to help cover rising costs and to protect front-line services as much as possible, we are asking you to consider supporting this proposal.
“This will help us to protect, as much as possible, those services that are a high priority to you – such as schools and to meet the increased demands placed on adults’ and children’s social care.”
Wrexham Council point to other authorities in Wales, noting a range of rises elsewhere between 3.6% and 9.92% while pointing out Wrexham was the 7th lowest rise at 5.5%, adding the North Wales average of 7.6%.
The council add: “Our council tax has always been one of the lowest in Wales, and nationally, of the 250 number of Local Authorities in England and Wales, our residents pay the 7th lowest council tax rate.”
There are no specific details on the ‘range’ of options being considered, but the finger is pointed to Cardiff and a top line rise of 13% is mentioned to cover all costs if a lower than expected settlement is required, while in the same breath stating ‘we are not proposing to do this’.
The Council’s full explanation is detailed below: “Each year the Welsh Government does an assessment of how much it expects each Local Authority to need to spend to deliver its services (known as the Standard Spending Assessment).
“It then provides a proportion of this funding, and the rest has to be made up from generating income and council tax.
“In order to meet the budget that Welsh Government states we will need, we would actually need to increase council tax by around 13%.
“We are not proposing to do this and so we currently bridge this funding gap through very tight budgetary control and being as efficient as possible.
“The funding that local government receives is heavily dependent on Welsh Government grant, and therefore we believe that if this funding does not increase significantly, there will have to be an increase in council tax to support essential frontline services that you, as residents, feel are important.”
Off the back of the above explanatory text Wrexham Council asks you two questions – you can only answer them via the ‘Difficult Decisions’ consultation on the YourVoiceWrexham website !
- Do you believe that Welsh Government should provide a settlement which assists councils in delivering frontline services?
- If the settlement from Welsh Government is low, please tell us if you would support WCBC in raising levels of council tax?
The council also invite a maximum of 1000 characters of ‘further comment’ from you on the topic of council tax.
Although the plans have been revealed in a public consultation phrases such as “We don’t want to do this. We just don’t have a choice.” along with the “time has come for us to introduce three-weekly collections” we reported how Cllr Mark Pritchard has rejected claims decisions have already been made, and therefore taking part in the consultation is a worthwhile venture for readers.
With the questions on Council Tax specific to Welsh Government, Cllr Pritchard has explained why he points to Cardiff rather than Westminster: “Can I say with regards to the Welsh Government, I’m very careful in what I say with with the wording, and I always say Westminster and Cardiff.
“This year with the budget cuts in the consultation, you will see I’ve only named the Welsh Government. The reason why I’ve done that is because in the past, we never had any consequentials. In other words, extra money from Westminster.”
There are more background to his comments in this previous article, with his full response in the below video. The previous article also gives a full comment from local AM Lesley Griffiths who said on the Cardiff v Westminster topic: “Despite the unprecedented uncertainty and lack of information from the UK Government regarding its own budget, the Welsh Government has stated health spending will be its priority, as well as providing local government with the best possible settlement.
“It’s also worth noting the way funding is allocated to councils across Wales is not solely decided by the Welsh Government. The funding formula is set on expert advice and agreed every year with local government representatives.”
Previously we have detailed how the consultation includes proposals that ‘could reduce the current standards’ of highway maintenance, introduction of three-weekly collections for black/blue bins and potential increased costs for parking at council car parks.
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