Powys County Council has approved a budget of more than £326 million for 2023-2024, with a council tax rise of five per cent.
The Liberal Democrat-led council said its balanced budget will see investment in key services, including schools, and was approved with cross-party consensus despite opposition from the Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrats say their 3.8 per cent council tax increase is an extraordinary achievement given inflation has run at around 10 per cent over the last year, proving they can be trusted to manage peoples’ money responsibly.
The total council tax rise will be 5 per cent due to an increased levy imposed by the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service of 1.2 per cent.
Council leader James Gibson-Watt said: “While I know any council tax increase will be hard to accept in the current circumstances, our aim has been to ensure that this years’ rise is as low as possible.
“With the Conservatives having trashed the economy under Liz Truss, failing to get inflation under control and failing to adequately assist with rising energy bills, the challenges we faced were immense. Delivering a rise of 3.8 per cent when inflation has been at 10 per cent for most of the year has taken an extraordinary amount of hard work.
“Powys being a large rural county with an aging population and high demand for social care presents unique challenges and that’s why our priority has been to protect vital services.
“I am particularly grateful to our coalition partners in the administration and members from across the council in helping to set what is probably Powys’ most difficult budget ever, incorporating the work done by scrutiny committees and proposals developed out of discussions with the Independents for Powys Group and Plaid Cymru. Sadly, the Conservatives have preferred just to criticise, and have not even presented an alternative budget, something we did when in opposition.
“This budget will ensure our schools receive a ringfenced funding boost of £5.5 million, meaning we will pass on every single penny of the Welsh government’s support for education to our schools. In addition, we are providing an extra £500,000 to invest in saving energy in our schools, enabling them to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint.
“This budget will also help us invest in the future of the council, with projects such as converting streetlights to more efficient LED lights and reducing staff travelling through digital ways of working, aiming to save money and help move the council towards meeting its commitment to reaching net zero carbon by 2030.
“The plans outlined today show that people can trust the Welsh Liberal Democrats to look after their money responsibly, protect public services and council residents from the financial crisis that has been caused by the ineptitude of this Conservative UK Government.”