THE CEREDIGION public “deserve more than they are getting” in services, a meeting has heard, as councillors still voted unanimously to hike the average total council tax bill for residents by more than £130 a year.
Members of Ceredigion County Council were recommended to approve a 7.3 per cent council tax rise at a meeting this morning (Thursday, 2 March).
Members at a February meeting of the county council’s Cabinet agreed to the 7.3 per cent increase in the council tax level for 2023-24, with the full council backing the move.
A 7.3 per cent increase equates to a basic Band D cost for county council purposes of £1,553.60; an increase of £105.70 from last year – just over £8 a month.
The rise, together with broadly similar increases in the Dyfed-Powys Police precept and the town and community council element, will see the average total bill topping £1,900, up from £1,777.27 last year, an increase of 7.37 per cent.
Total Band D rates – across all council tax, including town and community council levies and the Dyfed-Powys Police precept - will average £1,908.23, with Aberystwyth topping the list at £2,008.23.
Chairman Clive Davies told the meeting that the increase “doesn’t sound like a lot”, but “it is to a lot of people in our communities.”
The meeting heard that a 7.3 per cent council tax increase would allow for a 5.8 per cent increase in the budgets for Ceredigion schools.
The meeting also heard from officers that the increase was less than inflation.
Banding for 2023/24
How much tax each band will pay
Band A £1,035.73
Band B £1,208.36
Band C £1,380.98
Band D £1,553.60
Band E £1,898.84
Band F £2,244.09
Band G £2,589.33
Band H £3,107.20
Band I £3,625.07
Chief Executive Eifion Evans told members that council tax increases are “inevitable” if services are to be maintained.
“We don’t enjoy these figures, but unfortunately the situation we are facing means we have to make tough decisions,” he added.
Independent group councillor Gareth Lloyd told members: “We are not happy about this budget.
“We’ve got nothing to be happy about because it shows us that we are not financed sufficiently to provide all the services the public want.
“We are facing cuts and cuts and cuts.
“The public deserve more than they are having.
“To increase council tax is difficult when they have less money to spend.”
Liberal Democrats Leader Cllr Elizabeth Evans: “Every year since I’ve been elected we’ve had an unprecedented rise in council tax.
“Residents see a reduction in services and there is much discontent.
“There is a fear that a further increase will tip some over the edge into hardship.
“Morale among residents is very low.
“The problem we have is we are not in charge of the money that comes through the door.
“The only control we have is where we spend our money.
“I have looked at every possible scenario, but using reserves would push the problem down the road, any rise below 7.3 per cent would see further reductions in services.
“To not support this budget would be irresponsible.”
Cllr Paul Hinge said it was “very difficult” to set council tax, but even a 7.3 per cent increase still leaves the council in a “precarious position.”
Cllr Marc Davies said: “Nobody wants an extortionate increase but the stark reality is we have no choice.
“If we weren’t looking at 7.3 per cent today, then services would worsen.
“People complaining about the increase are the same people who will complain if rubbish isn’t collected or roads gritted.
“I don’t like voting to increase council tax, but we have no choice.”
Average bill for households across Ceredigion
How much will a council tax bill be for a Band D property across the county
NEW QUAY £1889.50
GENEU’R GLYN £1892.83
LLANBADARN FAWR £1914.57
LLANDDEWI BREFI £1897.09
YSBYTY YSTWYTH £1880.68
YSTRAD FFLUR £1889.30
YSTRAD MEURIG £1879.25
CILIAU AERON £1880.27
A full budget, totalling £180.101m for 2023/24, was also approved by full council members at the meeting.
The council said the budget was “extremely challenging”, with cost pressures being faced by the council “totally unprecedented.”
“A budget shortfall of £12m needs to be found from a combination of budget savings and council tax increase considerations,” a report put before members said.
“The leader and the Cabinet are, as all councillors are, acutely aware of the impact that the cost of living is having on household personal finances.
“It is proposed that council tax increases for 2023/24 are kept below the current rate of inflation and limited to no more than an additional £10.02 per month for the county council element.”
The report outlines that the council has identified around £22m of cost pressures, which equates to 13.4 per cent of the 2022/23 budget.
“This level of cost pressure is extraordinary and exceeds the £13m seen in last year’s budget,” the report outlines.
The overall council budget planned for 2023/24 is just over £180m, with council staff set to identify cost savings and service cuts in a bid to fill the shortfall.
The council is facing costs including an extra £5m for social care, including £2.5m for a Real Living Wage pay rise for social care workers, along with an estimated £8.7m in council staff pay rise costs including teachers.
Rises in fuel, food and energy costs are set to cost an additional £2.1m, with an extra £1.1m needed for a rise in transportation costs.
The 7.3 per cent increase includes a 1.3 per cent levy for Mid and West Wales Fire Service.