We should find out today how much Council Tax is set to rise by in Flintshire
It’s that time of year when Flintshire Council sets its budgets for the next 12 months and, of course, find out how much more Council Tax we will have to pay.
Residents have faced hikes of 6.7 and 8.75 per cent in the last two years, the council then gave a commitment to cap any annual rise in Council Tax to 5 per cent.
It has now revealed Council Tax will for the coming year is set to rise by 4.75 per cent.
Flintshire Council is one of the lowest funded of the 22 councils in Wales, last year only three received less funding, that’s despite Flintshire being the sixth largest in population terms.
Historically, Flintshire has just ‘got on’ with dealing with the ever-decreasing funding from Cardiff on the back of austerity measures.
The council has been forced to strip out around £85m of costs in the past decade as it battles to balance to books.
Last year a decision on whether to increase Council Tax by almost 9 per cent had been placed on hold pending the eleventh-hour lobbying bid.
A group of county councillors went to Cardiff to plead with ministers for a better deal.
Alas, it was a wasted journey, Council Tax was hiked and residents were forced to find another £110 (based on average Band D Council Tax).
That rise came despite warnings people in the county were already facing financial difficulties with some relying on foodbanks to feed their families.
It was a move which also sparked some bitter exchanges on social media with residents questioning why, once again, they were being tapped up for more cash despite council services diminishing.
In October, Flintshire Council warned it was in danger of being unable to set a balanced budget for 2020/21 amid uncertainty over how much money it would receive from the Welsh Government.
However, the council later said it was in positive position after ministers in Cardiff gave them an uplift of £10m in funding, a 3.7 per cent increase on the previous year.
The local authority has also received a welcome boost from the Clwyd Pension Fund with a ‘dividend’ of over £8m which has contributed to the budget.
The pension fund cash also means the council won’t be forced to dip into its reserves to help balance the budget for the first time in years.
The council’s cabinet has today approved a ‘real’ increase in Council Tax of 4.5 per cent, once the increase in the levy from North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority of 0.25 percent is added the total is 4.75 percent.
On Council Tax bills the Fire and Rescue Authority levy is not shown separately. “it is important that the public understand that the increase they will see on their bill covers both” the council has said.
In a joint statement, council bosses said: “We do not set our Council Tax levels lightly. We would rather be setting a Council Tax nearer to Consumer price index.”
However, the annual rise we are proposing is around the expected Welsh average, with some neighbours in North Wales having no choice but to set their Council Tax at a higher rate. Council Tax is becoming unsustainable and should not be relied upon by Governments to compensate for inadequate national funding settlements.
Welsh Government itself has set a guideline figure for annual Council Tax rises across Wales of 7.1%.
This is an admission by Welsh Government that its own funding is inadequate to meet need.
By coming 2.35% under this guideline figure, Flintshire can demonstrate that it is shielding the Council Tax payer from unreasonable demands.”
The statement goes onto say, “although we are now in a position to balance our annual budget, something that seemed an improbability only four months ago, we are not in any way complacent.
We will face a number of open risks in-year and, once again, will need to be prudent in managing our budgets tightly.
Our reserves and balances are at their lowest ever level. It will be essential that we stabilise and then grow our reserves over the year to come.”
The level of council tax for 2019/20 is then likely to be ratified by full council later this afternoon.
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com