Posted: Fri 23rd Feb 2024

Newport Independent Councillors Propose Halving Council Tax Rise /
This article is old - Published: Friday, Feb 23rd, 2024

A group of independent councillors in Newport believe a proposed council tax rise for the city should be nearly halved.
The four Lliswerry representatives, who won a clean sweep of the ward in the last local elections, have put forward alternative budget proposals they say are “balanced” and “more realistic”.
They accused Labour, which runs the council, of being “hell-bent on hitting hard-working people in the pockets with inflation-busting council tax increases”.
Council tax bills in Newport will go up by 8.5% in April under the council’s current proposals.
Mark Howells, one of the Lliswerry independents, said he and his colleagues had alternatively proposed an increase of 4.64% after consulting council officers on the figures.
He called that increase “closer to inflation and having less of an impact on people across our communities, who are struggling with rising costs”.
“This Labour administration states it’s a ‘listening council’, but 70% of people who responded to the consultation said the increase was too high and they were not happy with it,” Cllr Howells added.
“It is Lliswerry Independents who are listening to their constituents and producing a more realistic proposal for rate increases.”
His colleague Allan Morris criticised “spin” of the 8.5% rise, and said “a few pounds a week is an extra bag of shopping each year, or an additional school uniform for families”.
“It doesn’t matter how you dress it up, the proposal of 8.5% will hit people hard at a time when other costs are increasing significantly,” he added.
Central to the independents’ budget proposals are the city council’s underspends in recent years, the group said.
Cllr Howells said the authority “should be using some of that money to help residents out now when they are feeling the pinch of the cost of living”.
The independents have also proposed saving money by: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Removing the role of the presiding member and reverting to the mayor chairing council meetings, “saving £9,000”.
Publishing Newport Matters every four months instead of two months, “saving £21,000”.
Stopping the leader’s car and cutting the driver budget, “saving £17,500”.
Scrapping the “proposed new Newport Live contract manager, saving £65,000”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The group has proposed a range of investments, including: ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Stopping the “premature” closure of the Civic Centre for two days per week – “spending £91,000” – and auditing the council’s assets.
Re-instating the maintenance of the watercourse at Thompson Avenue, “spending £30,000”.
Increasing money for roads and assets: £700,000.
More funding for additional learning needs schools: £300,000.
Additional spending for a safeguarding hub: £160,000.
More long-term borrowing to support the capital programme: £595,000.
Extra funding for homelessness “given the gravity of the current situation in Newport”: £150,000. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Times are challenging for everybody and we know it gets harder each year to balance budgets,” Cllr Andrew Sterry said. “However, we have again demonstrated that by looking at efficiency savings and being bold about our choices, we really can get closer to inflation with rises, and help and support our most vulnerable along the way.”
Newport City Council declined to comment on the proposals, telling the Local Democracy Reporting Service it would instead be appropriate for councillors to debate and vote on the alternative plan at next week’s full council meeting. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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