Bridgend Council’s proposal to freeze Council Tax draws mixed reactions

One council has announced it will propose a council tax freeze and spending increase as part of this year’s budget.

The Bridgend County Borough Council cabinet will meet next week to discuss the local authority’s proposed budget for 2022-23.

If approved, the council’s budget proposal would also mean no cuts to frontline services and an extra £1.5million a year for local primary, secondary and special schools, among other spending increases.

The council’s medium-term financial strategy has been updated to reflect a 9.2% increase in funding from the Welsh Government.

Read more: You can find more Bridgend stories here.

Independent adviser Amanda Williams said: “Although I don’t want any increase, I would like to go further because we are in dire straits at the moment I think.

“People depend on every bit of money they can get.

“I think [there are] positive as they said there would be free school meals for all primary school children but my concern is that the money has to be found elsewhere. »

Liberal Democrat councilor Cheryl Green said: ‘Obviously local government settlement was much better than expected so I would expect [the council] to try to reduce the tax as much as possible, because Covid really hit people hard in the pocket.

“I would definitely support a council tax freeze.”

Cllr Alex Williams is the Leader of the Opposition and Group Leader of the Independent Alliance.

Independent Alliance group leader Alex Williams said while he also welcomed the Welsh Government’s increased funding, he was “angry” after some Labor council members published “Bridgend County Borough Council Tax Frozen” on social media – calling it “presumptuous”. to the extreme”.

Cllr Williams said: “It hasn’t even been discussed by Cabinet yet, [let] alone by all members of the full Council, so this assertion is presumptuous in the extreme considering that Labor does not have a majority in Bridgend County Borough Council.

“Who knows how the full Council will decide to proceed? Freezing council tax may be the best solution, but it has yet to be debated in the council chamber.

“Perhaps an amendment will be proposed to reduce Council Tax given the Welsh Government’s better than expected funding regulation to support the most vulnerable in society with what are expected to be significantly higher energy bills over the coming year.

“The calculation of the numbers should be done to see if this is a viable suggestion.”

Council Deputy Leader Hywel Williams said: “I am aware that political parties of all kinds are commenting and predicting what the final budget for 2022-23 might be.

The council’s unbiased press release draws attention to the fact that these proposals are set to be discussed in Cabinet next week.

If agreed at this stage, a second communiqué will be issued outlining how the proposals will be reviewed before moving to the final stage of the process, which involves being discussed by all members at a full Board meeting before a vote on whether to accept them or not.

This is the same process that has been in place for all previous budgets and, as usual, members have already had many opportunities to contribute, ask questions and participate in the budget review process. .

Establishing a perfectly balanced municipal budget is not an easy task. Thanks to additional funding from the Welsh Government, this is the first time in years that a potential council tax freeze has been made affordable, and I look forward to further debating the proposals as they move through the democratic process towards Council. . »

If approved, the council proposals would also mean:

  • An additional £2.5million to ensure all care workers receive a pay rise that reflects the actual living wage
  • An additional year of £1.2million for child welfare, protection and foster care
  • An additional £650,000 a year for supported living services for people with learning disabilities
  • An additional £465,000 a year to provide specialist support for children with additional learning needs
  • An additional £147,000 a year to support mental health services

The council’s plans will also include free school meals for all primary school children and free childcare for all two-year-olds in an initiative fully funded by the Welsh Government of Wales.

If approved, transport planning and regeneration will receive £2.2m, while £1.7m will be invested in regulatory services such as licensing, environmental health and trading standards .

The proposals will be discussed at a meeting on Tuesday 18 January.

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