Posted: Wed 11th Dec 2019

Warning sounded against imposing another hefty council tax rise on Flintshire residents in

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 11th, 2019

Council taxpayers in Flintshire should not be made to face another hefty increase in their rates next year, it’s been warned.

It comes despite Flintshire Council facing a budget gap of around £16.3m for the 2020/21 financial year.

Residents in the county have already experienced rises of 6.7 and 8.75 per cent in the last two years.

Councillors met yesterday to discuss the latest budget ahead of a crunch announcement by the Welsh Government on Monday, where they will find out how much funding they will receive to deliver services.

The council’s ruling Labour administration is currently aiming to cap any tax increase at five per cent, but has cautioned that figure could change if more money is needed to plug the gap.

However, opponents have said it should not go above the amount under any circumstances.

Speaking at County Hall in Mold, independent councillor Mike Peers, who heads up the largest opposition group, said: “I’m grateful that the figures here do work on a provisional five per cent, but I recall last February we were working on a provisional rate of 4.5 per cent and we know what happened there.

“I think that we need to aim for the five per cent as it was painful last year, and it wasn’t fully supported.

“In the spirit of working together now, and we have done thus far, I hope this council could focus on a five per cent council tax.

“With the settlement from Welsh Government, we should endeavour to work together for the benefit of the council and the council taxpayers.”

More than £8m worth of savings and income generation measures have been drawn up by the authority to date.

But senior figures have advised there are no further cuts available and reserves are at a low level.

Chief executive Colin Everett said an improved settlement was anticipated from Cardiff, although there remains uncertainty about the exact amount.

He added it may be forced to put council tax up by more than five per cent if necessary.

He said: “We will get a better settlement, it’s whether it’s sufficient or not.

“With council tax sensitivities, please don’t think we just hear what you say.

“We agree with what you say and we don’t want to be in a position of having discussions with you about going over five per cent.

“We have to be realistic and there a few things in the mix we have to return to in the New Year.”

Ahead of this year’s budget setting process, a cross-party group of councillors paid a lobbying visit to Cardiff to ask ministers for more money, but did not receive the full amount they requested.

It resulted in taxpayers facing a significant increase, despite a protest being held outside a meeting where rates were set in February.

Group leaders in Flintshire have again written to the government in the last few months to urge for a better settlement.

Council leader Ian Roberts said it was important they continued to work together.

He said: “To get ourselves as a council to a position where we signed a joint letter to go to Welsh Government was a very positive outcome.

“It showed that working across the chamber can unite the council where we feel there is cause that we need to unite for.

“It’s very difficult times for all of us and in many ways as I look round the chamber, we’re sat here almost like expectant children waiting for Father Christmas. Our Christmas hopefully will come next Monday.”

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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