As I’m sure many of you are aware, Monmouthshire County Council, now run by Labour, is proposing council tax rise of 7.5%, a rise of roughly £252 on the average household, a fact that I find difficult to digest when so many people are struggling as they are.
This proposed tax rise comes alongside a series of devastating cuts to the public services that we have all come to rely on.
The Services for Education and Children are facing cuts of almost £3 million and Social Care is facing the largest cut of £3.5 million.
Monmouthshire County Council has said that these cuts are because the Welsh Government’s budget “will not fully cover the increase in demand and inflationary costs being experienced,” and they are partially right.
I have previously highlighted the fact that the Welsh Government’s budget doesn’t go far enough to support local authorities, forcing councils to take difficult decisions, indeed the 2.3% increase for Monmouthshire is actually a large real terms cut levelled by the Welsh Government. All that said though, the combination of such a drastic council tax rise, together with a series of significant cuts to public services is going to hit many Monmouthshire residents.
As a past, long standing leader of Monmouthshire County Council, I know that difficult choices have to be made and clearly things will be tough for the council to set a budget with such a challenging settlement from Wales Government, but ‘choices’ is the key word and I really think the Labour administration should go back to the table and rethink some of their proposals and strategies.
As a past leader, I would not in good conscience be able to justify such drastic cuts alongside such a steep rise in taxes at a time where hard working families are still facing many other pressures on their family finances.
I note the council doesn’t want to use its reserves, and in normal times I would agree reserves should be used carefully, but I’d argue we are in exceptional times, requiring exceptional interventions.
I sincerely hope that Monmouthshire County Council reconsiders its planned, enormous council tax rise and also asks itself if the areas it is proposing to cut are the right ones.
It’s a statutory responsibility for the council to set a budget, but it should be a fair and sensible budget, one that ensures we get the reliable public services we need whilst taking into consideration the impact on the people the council serves.