COUNCIL tax across Carmarthenshire could rise by more than expected because of financial pressures faced by the authority.
Council chiefs had projected a 3.78% rise in 2019/20 but the figure planned now is 4.89%, which would add £57 to a Band B householder’s bill.
The numbers have been crunched in the light of the proposed Welsh Government settlement for the council, which is a 0.5% decrease on the current year.
Executive board member for resources, councillor Dai Jenkins, said the draft settlement was better than expected but still a reduction, and that this was compounded by inflationary, demographic and demand pressures.
Like councils everywhere, Carmarthenshire is expected to pay more teacher pension costs from next year onwards, which will cost it £2.7 million in 2019/20.
“Currently we have not been informed of any additional funding for this cost, but we assume it will be fully funded,” said Cllr Jenkins.
Executive board member for education, councillor Glynog Davies, said there was a £5.6 million shortfall Wales-wide in the money being provided for teachers’ pay awards.
Cllr Davies said he had pressed Wales’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, on this point at a conference last week and that she replied she had passed on every penny (to councils).
“It was a concern to all of us who were present,” he said.
The report before the executive board said the Welsh Government’s draft local government budget referred to an extra £20 million for social care, but that “there is simply no extra money for this”.
Cllr Jenkins said it was “pleasing to note” that a planned cut to the Wales-wide education improvement grant was not going to be implemented, but added that the council faced “significant” budget issues within education and social services.
The council’s forecast overspend, as of August 31 this year, is £2.2 million but there is still time to whittle that down.
Cllr Davies said the authority could not avoid certain costs, such as voluntary redundancy payments and educating some pupils out of county and even outside of Wales.
He said centres should be built within the regions of Wales to cater for these children.
He also said that while everyone was very proud of the music service for schools, it was “very, very expensive”.
He added: “It would be a shame if we had to get rid of that service.”
Cllr Jenkins said the authority had made some £50 million savings over the past few years, and that further savings of £9.8 million were required in 2019/20 — with £18 million savings projected in the two years after that.
He said the proposed 4.89% council tax rise was needed “to ensure essential services can still be delivered”, but no decisions have been taken and a consultation will be carried out before they are.
Elsewhere in Wales, Conwy Council is proposing an 11% council tax rise, Anglesey Council is proposing a 10% increase and Cardiff Council, which has a better settlement than other councils as things stand, has suggested a 4.3% rise.
Referring to the council tax rise planned for Carmarthenshire, Cllr Jenkins said: “I believe it’s a very balanced and fair outcome within this very difficult financial climate which continues to exist.”