Bid to impose cap on Flintshire council tax rises fails despite warnings of hardship for ratepayers
A bid to impose a cap on council tax rises in Flintshire has failed after the politicians who suggested it were accused of point scoring.
Ratepayers in the county have been hit by increases of 6.7 per cent and 8.75 per cent in the last two years, during which the local authority has faced reductions to its settlement from the Welsh Government.
Members of the recently established Flintshire Independents group put forward a motion to try and restrict any uplift for next year to 4.5 per cent.
However, their attempt was voted down by members of the ruling Labour administration, who criticised the opposition faction led by their former deputy Bernie Attridge.
They instead backed an amendment by council leader Ian Roberts, who pledged to set rates at the lowest level possible, but did not commit to a specific figure because of the currently unknown amount of funding available for 2020/21.
It came despite the original proposer of the cap claiming council tax rises had left some people in Flintshire in poverty.
Speaking at the start of a full council meeting held this afternoon, Cllr Helen Brown said: “We’ve called for this due to representations made by many residents in Flintshire that the 8.75 per cent increase set in 2019/20 is causing hardship and poverty.
“This year’s rise has been a step too far for many and people are angry.
“Working people have been hit hard and it’s unsustainable to expect residents to fund another gap.
“It’s not fair and it’s certainly not right to continue to pile the pressure even further onto our council taxpayers.”
Members of the Labour group opposed the motion as they said they did not want to have their hands tied when setting the budget for next year.
At present, the authority is facing a predicted blackhole of around £13.2 million, which officers said could not be bridged by the proposed amount of council tax.
The council leader said he sympathised with the sentiment of the proposal, but instead put forward an amendment calling on the UK and Welsh governments to release more money to keep any increase to a minimum.
Cllr Roberts said: “There seems to have been a misunderstanding in the council over what happened in February of this year.
“It was a very difficult decision for everybody in this council chamber and nobody took the matter lightly, in fact I seem to remember apologising for making the decision.
“Hardship and poverty are two very emotive words, but unfortunately the original notice of motion doesn’t mention the hardship and poverty which have come from ten years of austerity and benefit changes which have taken place over those years.”
Exchanges became heated between opposition and Labour councillors on several occasions.
It led council chair Marion Bateman to caution all groups on their conduct.
Cabinet member Derek Butler triggered some of the outbursts when he accused the Flintshire Independents of ‘the worst populist politics’, as well as attempting to grab newspaper headlines.
In response, Cllr Attridge criticised Labour’s new finance supremo Glyn Banks for failing to attend the meeting the last time council tax rates were set.
Despite several attempts by opposition members to include a cap of either 4.5 or 5 per cent, the majority of councillors voted in favour of the council leader’s amendment to keep any increase to ‘the lowest level possible’.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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