Ceredigion councillors have raised fears for the future of the council after fiercely debating how to fill an £18m hole in the authority’s finances.

Members, discussing a “nightmare” budget on 29 February, said that the Welsh Government “does not care” about small rural authorities, and wondered if a lack of an adequate financial settlement was a “way of getting rid of smaller authorities.”

The 2.9 per cent funding increase from the Welsh Government – the 14th lowest among Wales’ 22 local authorities – left councillors voting through a budget for 2024/25 that will see services slashed and taxes hiked.

At the meeting, former council leader Keith Evans said the council “was between a rock and a hard place.”

“Maybe the vision of Cardiff is to get rid of small rural authorities like ourselves,” he told members.

“They press and press and press.

“Maybe it’s just a back door way of getting rid of smaller authorities.”

Cllr Paul Hinge said that the “public need to understand why we are being asked to set the highest council tax they’ve ever known.”

“It’s because the Welsh Government turn a blind eye to rural counties in favour of urban areas,” he said.

“And what do we get? Crumbs.

“Where is the equity?

“They reward labour-run councils to the detriment of others. We are not equal. That is the problem.

“The Welsh Government needs to hear this message.”

Gareth Lloyd, leader of the Independent group said it is time to take the fight to Cardiff in a bid to get fair funding.

“I remember when we were trying to find £1.2m in savings and now we are having to find this much in cuts,” he told members.

“It’s likely to be just as worse, if not worse, next year.

“I feel this year we have crossed the threshold where the pressures on local authorities are too huge.

“I feel we need to organise buses to go down to Cardiff to express our feelings.”

He called for Ceredigion to join up with all local authorities “en bloc” to go to the Welsh Government and “make our feelings known”.