CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Cabinet has proposed reducing the Council Tax increase despite the cost of living rising at its fastest rate in three decades and the continued pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members met today to discuss feedback from the public budget consultation as well as to review the council’s current financial position.
After further consideration of the authority’s draft budget, Cabinet Members have agreed to cut the previously proposed increase of 4.39% to 2.5% in recognition of the pressures being faced by residents.
Now, a proposed Council Tax increase of 2.5% percent is being recommended to Full Council – that would mean a weekly increase of 66p on the average Band D property or £34.07 for the year.
All 74 members of the council will meet in March to discuss the recommendation and make a final decision.
Cabinet Member for Resources Cllr David Jenkins said that they had reviewed their budget plan and made key adjustments which allowed leeway to cap the council tax at 2.5%.
Cllr Jenkins said: “The public response to the consultation quite clearly indicated a majority favoured the lowest increase possible and I would like us to do everything we can to support our residents, recognising that the cost of living is rising at its fastest rate in three decades.
“To be able to set a Council Tax increase as low as 2.5%, I believe is a great achievement considering that there are so many financial risks and pressures with the budget this year, including the recognition that inflation is running well in excess of 5 %. This low increase will hopefully help all our residents of the county.
“Adopting these proposals, allows the Cabinet to present a fair and balanced budget to county council, which responds to the major concerns fed back from the consultation but also recognises the significant inflationary pressures that are being placed in front of the council over the forthcoming year and the financial risks of any future response to COVID-19.”
The council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover planned expenditure, as well as having money in reserves to pay for unplanned expenses and emergencies.
Cllr Jenkins added: “I would like to express my thanks to all who took part in the consultation or responded to the surveys. One thing that is generally clear from those who took part in the consultation is that they do appreciate that difficult choices need to be made.”
Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said: “We have had two extremely hard years with COVID and to be able to present a budget which maintains and develops the services we have is quite an achievement.”
The budget also includes no proposed cuts to school budgets for the next financial year, Cllr Jenkins said: “There are no savings allocated to delegated school budgets next year, allowing headteachers and all schools staff to continue to put all their focus into helping Carmarthenshire’s learners get back on track after what has again been a disruptive two years.”
Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We are continuing to see the impact of the pandemic on our schools, it has been a very difficult for staff and learners and we haven’t yet seen the end of this with the omicron variant.
“We have supported the schools to the best of our abilities, and I want to thank all our head teachers and staff for working with us.
“This is excellent news for all our schools allowing them to deliver the current level of service in future years.”
Jeremy Hunt sets new direction for government as Truss’s credibility trashed by u-turn
ON MONDAY, Jeremy Hunt unpicked virtually every element of Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget to calm financial markets and restore order to chaos.
The new Chancellor’s statement was a sobering reminder that although Prime Ministers serve with their colleagues’ consent, governments cannot survive without market confidence.
Mr Hunt said every Government’s core responsibility was to deliver economic stability.
“No government can control the markets. But every Government can give certainty about the sustainability of the public finances.”
His words were a damning implied indictment of the PM’s economic policy.
FULL REVERSE GEAR
The Chancellor’s words had an immediate effect on markets: the pound strengthened, and UK government bond yields fell to reduce the cost of government borrowing.
The statement might reduce the amount of a projected mortgage interest rise in November.
But make no mistake: the statement is a humiliation for the PM.
Every policy she’s trailed, trumpeted, and brought in has been chucked on the bin fire of her Government’s reputation.
Liz Truss sacked Mr Kwarteng because she did as she said and pursued a policy she endorsed enthusiastically.
The PM’s campaign slogan was “Trusted to Deliver”.
Her detractors pointed out that Liz Truss was pushed by the political winds and could not set her own course.
She’s tried setting her course and crashed the economy into an iceberg.
Moreover, her Cabinet colleagues must wonder whether they can trust the PM to stand behind them when they pursue a government policy she supports.
This is a government living hour-to-hour, in office but not in power, and with its key policies made by financial markets instead of ministers.
GOVERNMENT AIMS TO “REGAIN TRUST”
The Chancellor’s statement pulled no punches about the size of Ms Truss’s and Mr Kwarteng’s miscalculation and overconfidence.
Mr Hunt said: “The government is prepared to act decisively and at scale to regain the country’s confidence and trust.”
The painful use of the word “regain” underlines what the Government lost after September 23.
The Chancellor stated there would be “more difficult decisions” on tax and spending.
Mr Hunt is focused on lowering debt in the medium term and putting public finances on “a sustainable footing”.
Using the word “sustainable” implies the previous plan was unsustainable.
In light of this, government departments will be asked to find efficiencies within their budgets. The Chancellor is expected to announce further changes to its fiscal policy on October 31 to put the public finances on a sustainable footing.
TAX CUTS SCRAPPED
The Chancellor announced a reversal of almost all of the tax measures set out in the Growth Plan that have not been legislated for in parliament.
The following tax policies will no longer be taken forward:
Cutting the basic rate of income tax to 19% from April 2023. While the Government aims to proceed with the cut in due course, this will only happen “when economic conditions allow for it, and a change is affordable”. The basic rate of income tax will therefore remain at 20% indefinitely. This is worth around £6 billion a year.
Cutting dividends tax by 1.25 percentage points from April 2023. The 1.25 percentage points increase, which took effect in April 2022, will remain in place. This is valued at around £1 billion a year.
Repealing the 2017 and 2021 reforms to the off-payroll working rules (also known as IR35) from April 2023. This will cut the Government’s growth plan’s cost by around £2 billion a year.
Introducing a new VAT-free shopping scheme for non-UK visitors to Great Britain. Not proceeding with this scheme is worth around £2 billion a year.
Freezing alcohol duty rates from February 1 2023, for a year. Not proceeding with the freeze is worth approximately £600 million a year.
This follows from the previously announced decisions not to proceed with the Growth Plan proposals to remove the additional income tax rate and to cancel the planned increase in the corporation tax rate.
The changes are estimated to be worth around £32 billion a year.
That still leaves the Government with a lot to find to plug the hole in its finances, which indicates more pain will follow in public spending.
The Government’s reversal of the National Insurance increase, the Health and Social Care Levy, and the Stamp Duty Land Tax cuts will continue to benefit millions of people and businesses.
The £1 million Annual Investment Allowance, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme and the Company Share Options Plan will continue supporting business investment further.
ENERGY BILL SUPPORT TO CHANGE
In September, the Government announced massive financial support to protect households and businesses from high energy prices.
The Energy Price Guarantee and the Energy Bill Relief Scheme support millions of households and businesses with rising energy costs.
The Chancellor made clear they will continue to do so from now until April next year.
However, looking beyond April, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have agreed that it would be irresponsible for the Government to continue exposing the public finances to unlimited volatility in international gas prices.
A Treasury-led review will therefore be launched to consider how to support households and businesses with energy bills after April 2023. The review’s objective is to design a new approach that will cost the taxpayer significantly less than planned whilst ensuring enough support for those in need.
The Chancellor also said in his statement that any support for businesses will be targeted to those most affected and that the new approach will better incentivise energy efficiency.
“CHAOS AT THE HEART OF GOVERNMENT”
Rebecca Evans, Wales’s Finance Minister, responded: “The complete unravelling of the mini-budget shows the chaos at the heart of the UK Government.
“In six short weeks, the UK Government’s reckless and flawed economic policy has caused mayhem in the financial markets, pushed up mortgage costs and stretched household budgets even further.
“Now the UK Government is rolling back on its energy price support scheme for households, which will only add to the uncertainty people face as they worry about paying their bills.
“The new Chancellor has signalled a new era of austerity to start to fill the hole in public finances.
“We will all pay for the Government’s mistakes. But this is a crisis made in Downing Street and one it needs to address.
“The Chancellor needs to use his next financial statement to provide reassurance we will not see the deep spending cuts that will affect jobs, services and our economy – and to provide support to vulnerable households who have been ignored today.”
Claim what’s yours during the cost-of-living crisis
We want to make sure all Carmarthenshire residents are aware of the financial help and household support available to them.
We know how difficult it is when you need support, but don’t know where to turn – we want you to know that we are here for you.
Carmarthenshire County Council has a dedicated team of advisers who are here to listen and help you apply for the support, services and money that you may be entitled to.
There are 2 ways of accessing this support.
Online – by visiting the council’s Claim What’s Yours Page where you can or access information on a wide range of support schemes or arrange to speak with an adviser.
Visit one of our HWB Centres – located at Carmarthen, Llanelli and Ammanford and speak with one of our friendly HWB Advisers.
Since April of this year, the HWB Advisers have had over 400 applications for advice and support from Carmarthenshire residents and have helped with applications for a range of council and third-party support schemes, including Blue Badges for disabled parking, Council Tax discounts, Personal Independence Payments and grants to help parents purchase school essentials, such as school uniforms.
In addition to providing support through its HWB Centres and Claim What’s Your Page, Carmarthenshire County Council will be meeting with local partners and stakeholders to discuss and share information, along with best practice, so we can work towards providing a truly multi-agency support package for vulnerable households in Carmarthenshire.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet lead Cllr. Linda Evans said “Now, more than ever, it is important that people know what support and benefits are available to them as the increasing cost-of-living affects us all.
“Paying for food, energy, fuel and the mortgage, to name only a few rising costs, is at the forefront of all of our minds, so it is extremely important that people can access whatever assistance there is available to them.
“The process of applying for different support can be overwhelming and that is why we have set up HWB teams, at Llanelli, Ammanford and Carmarthen for people to call in and speak with an adviser. Our HWB advisers can guide you through the various processes of applying for support and benefits and they might be able to suggest other branches of support that you might not be aware of. This service is free of charge.
“The council has recently started to distribute the Welsh Government’s Winter Support Scheme and, later this month, we will be hosting a cost-of-living event to bring together a range of partner agencies to better understand what else can be done at a local level to support those being hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis.”
To access help from a HWB adviser or for more information about how to access support, benefits and services, visit the Claim What’s Yours page on Carmarthenshire County Council’s website.
Households in Carmarthenshire start to receive £150 cost of living payment
MORE than 31,000 homes in Carmarthenshire have started to receive a £150 cost of living payment to help tackle the cost of living crisis.
The council is making a single payment directly into the bank accounts of all eligible households that pay their council tax by direct debit. These payments have been able to be made because the council already holds this information.
For all other eligible households where the council does not hold bank details (approximately 40,000), letters have started to go out with information on how to apply for the payment by completing a short online registration form.
Please do not attempt to register your details until you receive your letter as you will need an access key code.
Householders that do not have online access are being advised to attend one of their Hwbs in Llanelli, Ammanford or Carmarthen where one of their customer service team will be able to provide support.
Please take along the letter containing your access code as well as proof of residency, such as a driving licence, utility bill or bank statement (no older than 3 months).
The council aims to make payment within 20 working days from application, as long as there are no queries with the information provided.
The cost of living payments are being provided to all households in properties in council tax bands A to D, and all households which receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme regardless of their council tax band.
The payments are being delivered by local authorities across Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government to support households as we recover from the pandemic and to help deal with the impact of increasing energy and other costs.
Please be assured the council is working as quickly as possible to process these payments and if there are any queries householders will be contacted directly.
crime6 days ago
Police launch public appeal following Carmarthenshire burglary
News6 days ago
Morrisons Foundation supports children’s charity with grant for vital equipment
Business1 day ago
Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities
News6 days ago
White Ribbon campaign supported by Carmarthenshire County Council
News1 day ago
Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands
News6 days ago
Carmarthenshire County Council thanks Carnival attendees
News2 days ago
Witness appeal after car is stolen and burnt out