COUNCIL tax payers in Monmouthshire face an increase of nearly six per cent under plans set out for next year’s budget.
Monmouthshire council’s cabinet will meet to approve the release of budget proposals next week, with the authority needing to save £5.7million in the next financial year.
The council is proposing a 5.95 per cent council tax rise, one per cent higher than signalled in a report last month.
Following the proposed rise next year, council tax increases of 3.95 per cent for the remaining years of the administration are planned.
A council report says the plans “support the priorities of the administration.”
School budgets have been protected and additional resources have been allocated to meet increasing demand for children’s and adults social services.
“The budget proposal sees a continuation of our preparedness to challenge all services to improve rather than to see the closure of services that matter to citizens,” the report says.
“There is an acknowledgement that when things close they never return and it is better to scale back rather than absolutely withdraw.”
As part of the budget, the council is also showing ‘intent’ to begin drawing up plans which could help regenerate Usk, similar to a £10million regeneration proposal in Caldicot.
Other budget savings proposed include charging blue badge holders, removing free Christmas parking, increasing parking charges by 10 per cent and introducing charges on Sundays.
Day closures at tips and setting up a new way of delivering tourism, leisure and culture services are also planned to bring savings.
A council report says the authority is also taking advice on the potential of recovering up to £1.7m of VAT from HM Revenues and Customs as a result of
VAT paid mainly on leisure activities in previous years.
Such income could be treated as exempt, according to a court ruling, the report says.
But despite the savings proposed, a funding gap of £594,000 still needs to be addressed.
Further savings will need to be found if funding is not made available in the final Welsh Government settlement, it is said.
The report says increasing council tax is “never popular” but that it is necessary due to reduced national funding, with the authority facing a cash reduction of £936,000 from Welsh Government.
Cllr Peter Fox, leader of the council, said the council tax rise is being proposed “with a heavy heart.”
“We are mindful that many other councils are proposing far greater increases but we do not want to do that here,” he said.
“While we are consulting on a range of very difficult proposals the council still has to find another £594,000 to balance the budget.
“This figure may rise further if proposals are not seen as acceptable.
“We sincerely hope that Wales Government will provide further resources for local government when its final settlement for us is announced.”
But Cllr Dimitri Batrouni, leader of the council’s Labour group, said: “No one in Monmouthshire should believe the crocodile tears of any local Conservative who bemoans these cuts.
“With their ideology of austerity, it is always the most vulnerable in society who pay the price.”
If approved at cabinet, the proposals will go out for public consultation from December 19 until January 31.