Posted: Thu 15th Feb 2024

Wrexham Residents Face Potential 10% Council Tax Rise as Council Struggles with Budget Gap /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Feb 15th, 2024

EMBARGOED: Not to be published until report goes live on council’s website this afternoon/evening (Wednesday, February 14)
PEOPLE living in Wrexham could be facing a council tax rise of nearly ten per cent, it’s been revealed.
Wrexham Council leader Mark Pritchard said the recommendation was being made as the local authority faces “dark times”, with a forecast budget gap of £22.6m for the next financial year.
The proposed increase of 9.99 per cent is due to be discussed by members of the council’s ruling independent/Conservative administration next week.
If approved, it would see the bill for an average Band D household increase to £1,598 per year from the start of April. 
The figure relates to the council tax element only, with the final bill due to be higher once the North Wales Police Authority and community council precepts are added.
As well as boosting income from council tax, the authority has also identified £13m worth of cuts and savings, but still has a gap of £1.8m left to address.
Schools in Wrexham are set to suffer real-terms budget cuts of £5.4m which Labour opposition leader Dana Davies said could “decimate” their finances, leading to staff redundancies.
Cllr Pritchard said coalition members had been faced with tough decisions because of cuts to council funding by central government.
Speaking at a media briefing this week, he said: “It’s probably been one of the most difficult processes I’ve ever had to face as a leader and an elected member.
“None of us came into politics to cut services – we came into local politics to improve services and represent our constituents.
“Every time you turn the TV on and put the news on, there’s another authority which is going bankrupt in England.
“There hasn’t been any bankruptcy in Wales, and I hope that continues.
“It’s not easy, it’s unpleasant and it’s dark times. We’re trying to protect as many services and keep as many jobs in this authority as we can.”
The Welsh Government announced the provisional settlement for all 22 Welsh local authorities in December.
Ministers indicated that Wrexham Council would receive an increase in grants of 3.2 per cent, compared to an average increase of 3.1 per cent across Wales as a whole.
However, the local authority said a combination of inflationary pressures, staff pay awards and other cost increases meant it was facing significant financial challenges.
The Welsh Local Government Association recently published a forecast which showed that councils in Wales are likely to face combined financial pressures of £340-£490m in 2024/25.
And Cllr Pritchard said there could be worse to come for Wrexham in future with a forecast budget gap of £27.3m over the following two years.
He said: “Since austerity started, the 22 authorities across Wales have lost over £1bn worth of funding.
“In this process this year, we asked for £800m and they allocated local authorities just £170m.
“All we’re asking for is that Westminster and Cardiff fund local authorities appropriately so we can deliver first class quality services for the people of Wales and Wrexham.
“I think we haven’t been listened to and we’re in this position now. If you think this year is difficult then next year will be worse.”
Cllr Pritchard singled out the devolved Labour-run administration in Cardiff Bay for criticism over some of its spending decisions.
They included money spent on the controversial introduction of a default 20mph speed limit in Wales and future plans to increase the number of Senedd members by 36.
He said: “Look at the 20mph limit and all the money they spent on that, then there’s more MS’s and free school meals for every child.
“They need to revisit that because there’s very wealthy people in Wales and their children are having free school meals.
“I don’t think that’s fair and if you can afford to then you should pay a contribution.
“Should everybody in this country have free prescriptions? I don’t believe they should. It should only go to the most needy.
“There’s millions upon millions of pounds we could save and that money could go to the NHS and local authorities.”
The proposed council tax increase will be discussed by Wrexham’s executive board at a meeting on Tuesday (February 21, 2024).
A final decision will be made at a full council meeting being held at the end of the month. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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