Posted: Thu 2nd Mar 2023

Council tax rise of nearly 10% approved in Conwy to address funding shortfall

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Mar 2nd, 2023

Council tax will go up 9.9 per cent in Conwy after the move received the approval of councillors.

It means that for an average band-D home in the county, residents will pay £1,580 in council tax a year –  £142 extra compared to the previous financial year.

At a meeting held today at the local authority’s Bodlondeb HQ, 36 councillors voted in favour of the new budget compared to 13 who voted against the proposals.

It came after they were told financial demands such as rising energy prices, care fees, children’s care, housing and homelessness, and national pay awards, as well as North Wales Fire service’s precept, had caused a shortfall of £21.7m.

Both councillors and officers said they understood the council-tax increase would impact the most vulnerable, including those on low wages, with budget cuts also affecting children in schools.

Lead member for finance Cllr Mike Priestley said the situation was the worst the authority had ever faced.

He said: “This is the worst budget I’ve ever had to work on or been part of, and I’ve been a councillor since 2004.

“We have not overspent. I’m putting that on the record now. We have had pressures coming at us left, right, and centre.

“It has been a horrendous financial year. I didn’t want to be here with a rise like that. These are pressures that are out of our control.”

The council was also forced to take £720,000 from its reserves to balance the books because of a last-minute national increase in pay for local government staff.

Council leader Charlie McCoubrey said the situation was even worse than he had foreseen ten months ago, when he appointed Cllr Priestley as cabinet member for finance, but stressed increasing costs were out of the council’s control.

He said: “As I did last year as leader, it is right and proper that I take full and final responsibility for this budget.

“When I asked Cllr Priestley to take on the job, it was a £6m pressure I was worried about at the time. Clearly we would give our back teeth to be in that situation now.”

Cllr McCoubrey then criticised the formula used by Welsh Government to calculate the annual Local Government Settlement.

Conwy received a 7.3 per cent increase in its last settlement, which was less than the national average of 7.9 per cent.

Cllr McCoubrey said Conwy received £256 per resident a year less than Denbighshire and £175 per head than Gwynedd.

He said: “If we were funded at those levels year on year, we would not be in this situation.”
Around 73 per cent of Conwy’s budget comes from Welsh Government and 27 per cent from council tax.

Conwy’s total budget for 2023/24 is £198.4m and it now has the lowest reserves in Wales.

The authority has cut the budget of every service by ten per cent, except education and social services, which have taken five per cent cuts.

Last year, council tax in Conwy increased by a lesser amount of 3.95 per cent.

By Richard Evans – Local Democracy Reporter

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