MONMOUTHSHIRE Conservatives have challenged Labour councillors to “work with us” and send a “united message” to Welsh ministers in Cardiff Bay opposing plans to reform council tax.
All 1.5 million homes across Wales are being revalued for the first time in 20 years and new property bands could be created.
The Labour Welsh Government has launched a consultation on three options to redesign council tax, which raises about £2.4bn for local authorities every year. The amount of council tax paid depends on the value of the home.
Yet a report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows Monmouthshire is set to bear the brunt of reforms. It outlines the impact of the different options, with even the “minimal” proposal leading to a 3.3 per cent hike in bills.
The “modest” proposal would cause an average council tax rise of 13.5 per cent, while the “expanded” proposal would lead to an average increase of 16 per cent.
More shockingly, an even wider-ranging change called the “12 band proportional system” could see council tax in Monmouthshire rocket by an eye-watering 28.1 per cent.
Local MP David Davies, who launched a petition last October calling on the Welsh Government to reject its proposals for a council tax revaluation amid warnings of “astronomical rises” in Monmouthshire, said the county was being used as a “cash cow”.
He has joined forces with Monmouthshire Conservatives – including Monmouth MS Peter Fox, South Wales East MS’s Laura Anne Jones and Natasha Asghar, Conservative council group leader Richard John and Conservative councillors – to campaign against the “outrageous” changes.
A number met at County Hall in Usk to deliver a letter urging the leader of Labour-run Monmouthshire County Council, Mary Ann Brocklesby, to “put politics aside” and “stand up” for residents.
“We are united in our opposition and firmly reject what the Welsh Labour Government is proposing,” said Mr Davies.
“Once again, ministers in Cardiff Bay seems to be punishing Monmouthshire residents who already face an unfair council tax burden and pay through the nose because we are one of the lowest funded local authority areas in Wales.
“The shortfall between what is received from the Welsh Government and what the council spends is made up by council tax. Because Monmouthshire has been woefully under-funded for years, our council taxes are far higher than they should be.
“The Labour council said they were going to lobby the Welsh Labour Government for a fairer funding settlement. Far from seeing any progress on that, Labour now seems content to allow colleagues in Cardiff Bay to bring forward these outrageously unfair reforms, which will further penalise Monmouthshire.
“I very much hope the Labour council will join us in putting the best interests of our residents first before any political considerations.”
The letter asks Cllr Brocklesby to confirm if the council accepts the proposed council tax changes are going to cause the rises set out in the IFS report, what position the council is going to take on the consultation and what the council will be doing to ensure the Welsh Labour Government’s proposals do not go ahead.
Cllr Richard John said: “These proposed changes to council tax would be crippling for so many Monmouthshire families, young people trying to get on in life and older people on fixed incomes, especially as they would be on top of Monmouthshire County Council’s already planned annual council tax rises.
“I know Labour councillors will be mindful that it’s a Labour Welsh Government putting these proposals forward, but I hope they will prioritise standing up for our residents above party loyalty.
“So far Labour councillors have been silent on these changes, but we really need to them to work with us to send a united message to Welsh Government ministers that these changes are unfair and would penalise families in rural counties.”
The Welsh Government’s consultation closes on 6 February 2024 and changes may be implemented as early as April 2025.
Peter Fox MS added: “Some of the proposed changes to council tax are incredibly unfair on the people of Monmouthshire and will do nothing but add further pressures to families across the constituency should they be implemented, especially on our elderly population many who have worked hard all their lives to afford their family homes and who have only modest incomes.
“It would be completely unacceptable for Labour ministers to pursue policies that adversely affect so many here in Monmouthshire, and I will always oppose measures that are detrimental to my constituents”.