A west Wales council has said a pay offer made to non-teaching staff will cost an extra £3 million a year.

Carmarthenshire County Council today agreed to increase council tax bills by 6.8 per cent in 2023/24 following a public consultation, which drew more than 2,000 responses.

Speaking at a full council meeting today, the Cabinet member for resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “This year’s budget choices are every bit as hard as the very worst years of the austerity era. It is, as I’ve said before, like austerity on steroids. 

“The situation was made more challenging due to a national pay offer being made to trade unions representing non-teaching council staff at the end of last week.

“The timing was unusual and most problematic, coming as it did days before the budget was put before full council. The pay offer is at a level above almost all Welsh councils’ assumptions, and If accepted by the unions, will cost the authority an extra £3m to that which we’d budgeted.

“We’ve had to take urgent action, including taking some money from the council’s reserves, to accommodate this unexpected pressure at this time of year."

Elsewhere in the budget proposed cuts to school funding and increased school meals and car parking charges have been reduced, and a lower than anticipated council tax increase of 6.8% will enable the council to avoid cutting essential public services, the council has said.   

Over 2,000 people responded to the online consultation, and 80 young people from the county’s secondary schools attended a face-to-face event at County Hall to discuss with Cabinet members and express their priorities. 

As a result, the proposed reduction of £2.7m in the Schools Delegated Budget has been cut to £2m, although in real cash terms, Carmarthenshire schools will get an extra £8m to cover inflation, energy and staffing costs. 

It was originally proposed to raise the price of school meals by 10 per cent in line with inflation, but this has been halved to 5 per cent.

In recognition of this difficult time for town centre traders, the proposed 10 per cent inflation-related increase in car parking charges has also been cut to 5 per cent.

Proposed cuts to the Youth Support Service and Children’s Services Grants have been dropped completely. 

Cllr Lenny added:  “On a more positive note, changes such as updated energy prices based on the latest information, and the release of capital charges, provided us with a total sum of almost £1.8m to make changes to next year's budget.

"The council will make best use of this sum by making adjustments which take account of the consultation process and responds to the feedback from both public and councillors.

“I fully appreciate that this increase is another burden on residents, but I believe it strikes the right balance as we strive to protect the vital services which the people of Carmarthenshire rely upon and look to their council to deliver each and every day.”