A 12.5% Council Tax Rise?

  1. Capture

A number of people have contacted me recently about the potential, reported on Monday by the BBC, for a significant rise in Council Tax in Pembrokeshire (Up to 12.5%). Those emails made me realise that apart from a relatively brief newspaper article there wasn’t really much out there to explain what was behind the headline. So, I thought I’d have a go at providing some detail and answering a few of the questions people have been posing.

Where has this story come from? Has the decision already been made?

At the Cabinet meeting held last Monday members, including myself, voted unanimously to put forward a draft 2018/19 budget proposal which contained provision for cuts in services worth £14.3m and a council tax increase of 5%. This draft budget will now be scrutinised by all members over the coming months.

The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Finance has, since then, suggested to the media that the £14.3m in cuts proposed was, to him, deeply unpalatable and that he believed they may also prove to be unpalatable to the wider Council Membership and the Public. In order to avoid service cuts of this magnitude he suggested the Council tax may have to rise by as much as 12.5% next year.

The decision on how much Council Tax will rise in Pembrokeshire will not be formally made until March next year and it will be voted upon by all of the elected members of Pembrokeshire Council.

What are the numbers behind this 12.5%?

In the coming financial year (April 2018 to March 2019) the council is projected to have a revenue budget of approximately £197m. Accounting for inflation, pay pressure, increases in financing costs etc that represents a cut of £16.7m on the previous year. (If you assume a 5% increase in Council tax that becomes a cut of £14.3m)

The projection is for further cuts in future years as follows;
£11.2m (2019-2020)
£10.7m (2020-2021)
£9.1m (2021-20220
As you can see, the situation facing Pembrokeshire Council is a difficult one.
It’s always worth remembering too, I think, what Pembrokeshire Council spends it’s c.£197m budget on, the principal services being;

Service Area Budget
Education
£85m
Almost exclusively schools
Children’s Social Care
£13.5m
Support for Vulnerable Children, Children in Care, Support for Foster Carers, Family Support and Intervention
Adults Social Care
£53.2m
Home Care, Residential Care Provision for the Elderly, Support for Vulnerable Adults, Day Care, Meals Service, Equipment and Adaptations
Environment Services
£13.6m
Refuse Collection, Street Cleaning, Environmental Health
Highways
£8.2m
Roads, Bridges, Buses etc.
Council Tax Benefits
£7.9m
Under a scheme mandated by National Government
Total c.£182m

The remaining c.£15m pays for the County’s Leisure Centres, Libraries, Beaches and Public Footpaths, the Planning Department, Homelessness Prevention, Emergency Planning, HM Coroner and a huge range of other, smaller, services too numerous to list.

Now, I don’t believe for a second, that the Council is as efficient as it could be and I am determined to do all I can to improve that. Nor do I believe that the Council should be immune from the financial challenges facing Government at all levels. However, another key dimension to our specific problems in Pembrokeshire is our historically low Council Tax.

How does Council Tax in Pembrokeshire compare to elsewhere in Wales?

 

Council tax in Pembrokeshire (Band D) is currently £883 per year. For comparison, our neighbouring Council’s band D Council tax rates are shown below. As you can see, even after a 12% rise, Council Tax in Pembrokeshire would remain significantly cheaper than in our immediately neighbouring Counties.
Pembrokeshire £883
Ceredigion £1168 +32.00%
Carmarthen £1145 +29.74%

Conclusion

I  haven’t decided yet how I will vote on Council Tax proposals (the vote is not for another 3 months) but I do assure you I will carefully consider the feelings of everyone who gets in touch with me on this subject before before I exercise my 1/60th of the vote in March. However, I hope everyone in turn will consider the extremely difficult decisions the Council faces in coming years and the nature of the services the Council is there to provide for our community here in Pembrokeshire.
The budget meeting will be held on the 8th March 2018 and if you wish to watch the debate you are able to do so via the live webcast, which can be accessed by clicking this link [https://pembrokeshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home]
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