Fallout from Flintshire’s biggest ever council tax hike rumbles on…..
The fallout from Flintshire’s biggest ever council tax hike has rumbled on with one Cabinet Member deactivating her Twitter account following a ‘spat’ and another councillor issuing an unprecedented statement outlining why he voted for the near nine per cent rise.
Flintshire residents will have to pay an extra £103 a year on average after politicians voted on Tuesday to increase council tax by 8.75 per cent.
The rise came despite warnings people in the county are already facing financial difficulties with some relying on foodbanks to feed their families.
Councillors said they were left with little option but to put rates up by som much in light of the £3.1m budget gap facing them in 2019/20.
Many blamed both the UK and Welsh governments for the decision as the local authority is the 19th lowest funded out of the 22 in Wales.
A total of 38 councillors, 33 Labour, three Liberal Democrat and two independent members voted in favour of the rise with 20 councillors voting against.
On Wednesday the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) published its Annual Report which determined councillors across all local authorities in Wales are to receive an increase in allowances of more than £260 and by £800 for senior members.
Councillors in Flintshire had been invited to give their views on the increase at a full meeting in November last year, and while every councillor voted in favour of objecting to the proposals, the final decision rests with the IRPW which was set up by the Welsh Government.
The council budget voted through by elected members on Tuesday has a £30,000 uplift built in to allow for the increase in councillor allowances.
One person reacting to the news of the council tax rise in Flintshire was called ‘silly’ by Labour’s Cllr Christine Jones, the Flintshire Cabinet Member for Social Services as they had also linked the pay rise due for Councillors.
Wrexham.com picked up on the tweet and asked Cllr Jones: “Are councillors over in Flintshire getting the same pay rises as in Wrexham, or have you managed to opt out of the IRPW reccs?”.
Wrexham Council has reportedly said it not possible to opt out of the IRPW recommendations.
Despite replying to several other people on Twitter, Cllr Jones initially ignored the question from Wrexham.com.
Cllr Jones then indicated there was no link between Council Tax and the councillor pay rise, “No because he was referring to Council Tax which has no relevance to the proposed renumeration”. She said in a Tweet.
Cllr Jones was then asked: “What budget does the increase in pay come out of at Flintshire Council?”
Following several more interactions, Cllr Jones blocked Wrexham.com and tweeted “Done some blocking tonight. I hate trolls, Evil and vile.”
After short while Cllr Jones unblocked Wrexham.com and explained why she took the action against them saying the reason was ‘awful harassment’ :
The councillor explaned further; “If you want to speak with me @wrexham you can meet with me.
I will not be subjected to abuse by trolls defending your news outlet” adding, “I am disgusted by comments that were made.
I am willing to speak with you but not be subjected to abuse”
Wrexham.com notes: “At that point we could not see any abuse, nor been abusive or harassed the councillor ourselves, pointing out: “Blocking is not being ‘willing to speak’. Which comments from us were you ‘disgusted’ by, and were abusive?”
Cllr Jones clarified to Wrexham.com: “None from you just by others who decided to get involved and be abusive. I am willing to speak in person.”
The councillor for Sealand went on to deactivate her Twitter account.
Talking to the Local Democracy Service Cllr Jones said she had been left ‘upset’ by some of the comments as the decision over pay was not influenced by councillors. She said:
“It was dreadful and absolutely disgusting. I did not want to discuss the budget on Twitter.
“We’d had enough all day and then someone says, ‘you’ve had this pay rise’ and everyone gets really nasty about it.
“Some of the things they were saying were horrible. They were vile and they were evil.
“It’s not nice when people put untruths about you on there and they don’t even know you.”
Councillor Jones has since apologised to Wrexham.com for implying they had harassed her.
Please read my response. I’m available for anybody to email, direct message or phone me to talk about this further. As always, I am here to advise and help as best I can. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/mL0RLjGVM1
— Andy Dunbobbin (@acdunbobbin) February 20, 2019
Councillor Andy Dunbobbin also took to social media last night to outline his reasons for voting through the council tax rise, the move followed criticism from some Twitter users.
The elected member for Connah’s Quay Golftyn ward took the unprecedented step of issuing a statement about his vote. He said:
“Yes, I am a councillor who voted in favour of the 8.75% increase in Council Tax. Did it pain me to do so? Absolutely.
“Did I, along with my colleagues, seek ways to limit the increase as much as was feasibly possible? Again, absolutely. With the knowledge of services that were at risk, would I have voted any differently? Absolutely ”
“So now it’s only right for me to attempt to justify my vote to the residents I do my best to serve, support and represent – because first and foremost I’m a resident too. It’s an increase I also have to find a way to afford.”
“The simple facts are, without the increase, as severe as it is – services would suffer. Services we all rely on. Services the most vulnerable need. Services that support brighter futures for our children and keep people in jobs.”
I know it’s far from ideal. I know many of you will be frustrated or will feel in some way that I’ve maybe let you down. But I can honestly say I made the decision with the belief that the alternative would lead to ramifications that would be far graver for our community. ”
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