Council Tax up 5.5% after ‘heart searching political discussion’ – grim warning as Chief Exec says ‘no money in the bank’ for 2021
Councillors are set to discuss a report on Tuesday that includes the finalised Council Tax rise for next year at 5.5%, with the debate already starting for better government future funding as ‘there is no money in the bank’.
Council Leader Mark Pritchard has said a ‘heart searching political discussion’ took place between the administration groups made up of independents and conservatives on Wrexham Council to agree the tax rise.
Cllr Pritchard said of the rise: “There has been difficult discussions between us all and we do understand that there is lots of people out there who are struggling and this will have an impact on them.
“If you look and compare us with other authorities and what they set theirs at in the future our track record tells people of Wrexham we have always been considerate and thoughtful in this area.
“The bluntness of where we are is we had a settlement from Welsh Government that is disappointing, and we expected a lot more, and we have had to balance our budget. That is why we are setting it at 5.5%.
“We have found £60m and we have to find another £16m of cuts in the next two years. We hope we can do that and there are no interference with our services. It is a credit to the council officers that we have taken £60m out, and the day to day running of this organisation has continued and is successful.
Wrexham Council’s Chief Executive Ian Bancroft said ‘everyone was playing their part’ by helping plug the budget gap which would ‘help protect services’.
Mr Bancroft added a grim warning after noting the Welsh Government settlement made ‘no material difference’ to the planned budgets, “The big issue for me as head of paid services is this is the first time ever we have no money in the bank now to actually deal with the 2020-21 budget.”
“My analysis of the council is it is extremely well run financially, other authorities in a much worse position than us.
“We are able to deal with this year, with everyone playing their part. We will be talking, unless there is help for 2021-22, not about savings and not about cuts, but stopping services 2021.
“We are going to have to have a different type of debate with the public if there is not support in the next budget.
“We do not want to leave it until this time next year, but have the debate now about what services could be put at risk so that we can find ways that all of us can protect those services.
“That is the hard reality. We can manage this year, with what is a really difficult proposal in terms of Council Tax, but it is the right one.
“There is no money in the bank for 2021.”
There is a line in report before councillors under adjusted ‘savings / cuts’ proposed that shows £259,000 under ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’ noted as “Reduce Budget in line with current year projected expenditure”, this is also noted in the risk analysis document. It is explained a risk could be ‘significant increase in takeup of Council Tax Reduction Scheme (e.g. major employer leaving area/going into liquidation) could increase caseload, which in turn could increase spend and therefore cost’ but the risk will be managed via the council’s budget monitoring and control arrangements.
Wrexham Council are looking to raise £61,601,358 from Council Tax in 2019/20 to contribute to their overall predicted £236,853,291 funding.
Details are also given to councillors on the recent ‘Difficult Decisions’ consultation that included a question on Council Tax with the summary feedback on the options before the public graphed:
Further details are also presented of comments from the public in the consultation on the question of Council Tax, with the top feedback being grouped in value for money, and criticism of the question itself making the top three.
Councillors will meet on Tuesday 10am at the Guildhall to discuss the report. The Executive Board meeting will be webcast, or you can attend in person in the public gallery.
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