This week councillors in Monmouthshire will be voting on the Labour administration’s budget proposals.

Setting a budget in challenging economic times can be tough because there are many competing priorities and you have to strike a balance between keeping council tax low but also protecting frontline services.

After public outrage and pressure from cross party councillors, I’m pleased the administration has ditched some of the core planks of its budget proposals.

These include the crazy proposal to increase charges for cafes, restaurants and shops to use the frontage of their business by 3,000 per cent.

At a time when so many high street businesses are struggling, this was a terrible idea.

We raised concerns that the draft budget plans seemed to disproportionately target children and young people.

The administration proposed a £2 charge for primary school pupils for breakfast clubs, which would cost a family of two school age children £720 a year.

Senior councillors have now tweaked this plan by saying they’ll charge £2 for one child and £1 for siblings.

How this would work in practice is quite unclear.

Price hikes for school transport have been put on hold for this year, although the council still plans to change the travel distances to qualify for free transport to school.

he council is still proposing to cut £100,000 in funding for Gwent Music, to cut funding for library books and most concerningly cut the number of educational psychologists in our schools.

The pandemic and the lack of socialisation had a terrible impact on the mental health of so many children and young people.

This is the worst time imaginable to be cutting this service and making it more difficult for vulnerable children to get the support they need.

Having invested millions of pounds refurbishing leisure centres under the previous Conservative council, I was really disappointed to see proposals to cut leisure centre opening times but am relieved these have been dropped for now.

But I would urge leisure centre users – we’ve averted the axe this time but we really need to support our local services or we risk losing them.

The budget also proposes a massive council tax hike of almost 6 per cent–far higher than similarly rural neighbouring authorities.

On Thursday councillors will be having a robust debate about these plans and I hope they will vote according to their conscience and ensure that we protect frontline services and look after the most vulnerable in our county.