Posted: Tue 29th Jan 2019

Flintshire Council Tax hike of nearly 9% parked until bus load of councillors have been to Cardiff to lobby Government

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Jan 29th, 2019

A decision on whether to increase council tax in Flintshire by almost nine per cent has been placed on hold pending an eleventh-hour lobbying bid.

Politicians warned residents were facing ‘desperate’ times as they chose to delay setting a budget ahead of a crunch visit to Cardiff next week.

A cross-party group of councillors will travel by bus next Tuesday to ask Welsh Government minister for improved funding as they look to plug a budget gap of more than £3 million.

If they are successful, Flintshire Council officers said the hike for rate payers could be kept to between six and seven per cent.

However, if their campaign fails then residents could be faced with a rise of £104 per year to their bill for an average Band D property.

The visit to the Senedd was previously put forward by independent councillor Kevin Hughes, who made an impassioned plea for all parties to present a united front.

Speaking at a full council meeting at County Hall in Mold today, the Gwernymynydd representative said: “I’m blessed to have seven grandchildren, five of whom will be educated in Flintshire and it really hurts me that they and their peers will have considerably less spent on them than those in other areas.

“No-one in this chamber wants to impose any rise in council tax to our residents, but we have to face facts.

“Try as I might I don’t see a bone left on the carcass with any meat left on it.

“Our communities are hurting in Flintshire. Wages haven’t gone up, prices haven’t gone down and the cost of living continues to rise.

“We have to be united as a coalition with a political will.

“As Cllr Richard Jones suspects, we may fail with our Cardiff mission and we don’t even know which ministers will meet us, but we have to try.”

If there is no further increase in funding, Flintshire’s ruling Labour administration has advised that a rise of 8.5 per cent will be needed to match spending for the upcoming financial year.

An additional uplift in the authority’s contribution towards the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority Levy would see rates set at around 8.9 per cent.

Tempers flared at some stages of the meeting as some politicians blamed Labour cabinet members for the financial position.

Cllr Patrick Heesom (Ind) advised them they should ‘get out’ if they could not balance the budget without a significant increase in tax.

He said: “The responsibility for this budget lies with the leadership and it’s down to you.

“You have got us into this mess, it’s not the Welsh Government that’s got you into this mess.

“I wish the trip to Cardiff well, we’d all like more money, but the clear advice is it’s not going to be coming in our direction.”

Cllr Richard Jones (Ind) also asked whether reserves and capital receipts could be used as an alternative to cap the council tax rise at five per cent.

However, council leader Aaron Shotton (Lab) said the council was left with few alternatives as further cuts would mean stopping some frontline services.

He said: “We’ve accepted almost universally the advice of professional officers that there are no further efficiencies of scale to be found within services without putting those services at risk.

“There is a limit to further efficiencies and we’re at that limit now.

“I will not be proposing any further cuts to services as a part of this year’s budget.

“We will take the unusual step of deferring the council’s decision on the budget today and I move that the council does engage with the Welsh Government through a cross party delegation for an improved local government settlement, in order to suppress council tax rises in Flintshire and across Wales, by specifically increasing recurring funding for schools and children’s services.”

Councillors unanimously voted to defer setting the budget for 2019/20 until late next month.

An amendment by Cllr Jones was also approved asking officers to report back on whether reserves and capital receipts could be used to balance the books.

By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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