Posted: Tue 19th Feb 2019

Flintshire residents face extra £103 on council tax bill after increase is approved

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Feb 19th, 2019

Flintshire residents will have to pay an extra £103 a year after politicians voted to increase their council tax by almost nine per cent.

It came despite warnings that people in the county are already facing financial difficulties with some relying on foodbanks to feed their families.

However, councillors said they were left with little option but to put rates up by 8.75 per cent 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.

Cllr Aaron Shotton, who runs the Labour-led administration in Flintshire, said the uplift in council tax would allow the council to protect schools and social services.

Speaking at a meeting at County Hall in Mold today, he said: “It’s fair to say this is the most difficult budget to date.

“We know in this chamber the critical importance of local government and certainly in this county it is the primary provider of services which allow our county and country to operate on a daily basis.

“The disastrous policy of austerity that has dominated thinking in the Treasury since 2010 has clearly had a catastrophic effect and local government has been disproportionately affected across the UK.

“I am proud that this budget not only protects and retains the budget for schools and social care, but provides additionality in those two areas to meet the increasing need for those services.

“I’d ask members to support the motion before you and do that in the interest of services we provide to people in Flintshire.”

All 70 councillors were asked to support the increase, which includes a rise in the North Wales Fire Authority precept of 0.58 per cent.

It means the average bill for a Band D household will go up to £1,280 from April.

But opposition politicians criticised the decision to ask residents for more money and said the authority should look to use a higher amount from its reserves instead.

Cllr Carol Ellis (Ind) said: “Many people are dependent on foodbanks and haven’t got any money to go for the niceties in life as well.

“We can argue amongst ourselves here but at the end of the day the people who are suffering are the people who pay the tax.

“We don’t want to be arguing amongst ourselves because I’m sure we all want the best for the people we represent.

“In terms of Welsh Government, let’s hold them to account because they’re guilty and they’re not our friends in this.”

Cllr Mike Peers (Ind), who heads up the second largest group on the council, put forward an alternative proposal which would have seen the increase reduced to just under six per cent through the use of reserves.

However, his amendment was defeated after he was warned that using them would add to the pressure on the authority’s budget in future years.

Cllr Derek Butler (Lab) said: “Some of us have been councillors for quite some decades and we’ve never seen a scenario that we’re facing today.

“I’m grateful to Cllr Peers for coming up with an alternative.

“However, the proposals before us have been shot down by the information from the officers before us.

“We are here today in the worst of times to provide the best services for our people.

“We’re here to deal with problems and I’m proud to be part of a party that deals with the problems in their face.”

The main proposal to put council tax up by 8.75 per cent was approved by 38 votes to 20.

Councillors also approved a recommendation to set up a cross-party group to suggest changes to the local government funding formula in Wales.

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

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