|Council Tax rises from April this year|
In fact a rise of 5 percent was supported by Labour and Plaid Cymru — it is only thanks to pressure from the Independents that it was eventually reduced down to a still massive 4.5 percent. In the council press release, Commissioner Byron Davies justified the rise by arguing it is necessary to safeguard the Island's three swimming pools and also spare public toilets from the axe.
However thats not the explanation for the this extraordinary rise. These are the real reasons:
- The Commissioners have failed to deliver on £1.2 million worth of savings they were mandated to make this year. As a consequence of this, £600,000 has had to be covered by dipping into the council's bank account, £281,000 was judged to have been unachievable anyway, and the remaining £368,000 now needs to be found in addition to the further savings required next year. As £250,000 is roughly equivalent to one percentage point on Anglesey's council tax, this failure to deliver by the Commissioners has added an extra one and half percentage points to next year's bills.
- The Commissioners, under direction from Cardiff, have further decided to spend an additional £1 million on 'strengthening' the 'Corporate Centre'. £300,000 of this will go on improving Children's services — something nobody will quibble with — however the remaining £600,000 (worth two and half percentage points on your council tax bill) will mostly be spent on hiring more HQ staff.
- Despite the above additional costs being placed on Anglesey by Cardiff, Ynys Môn council this year received the second worse funding settlement from the Welsh Government — a cut of -1.2% compared to an average increase to other Welsh councils of 0.58%.
- The Welsh Government has long complained that Ynys Môn has kept its Council Tax too low. In my view this has always been justified by the fact that Ynys Môn has long been officially the poorest place in the country. However, by sanctioning the largest council tax rise in the United Kingdom, the Commissioners have clearly shown that they are here not to do their best by the residents of Ynys Môn, but to best serve the interests of the Welsh Government in Cardiff.
Furthermore, despite being more than partially responsible for the need for such a large rise, both the unaccountable Commissioners and Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Minister for Local Government, have strong-armed Councillors into acquiescing to the largest Council Tax rise in the UK by stressing that it would be an "acid test" of their political maturity (a lack of debate apparently shows maturity). The carrot of a partial return of powers (and special allowances) was also dangled before the shadow executive.
This budget will now go to a vote before the Full Council on March 6th. Despite opposition from Labour and Plaid who supported the original 5 percent rise, the Independents have done well to get it cut down to 4.5 percent — however they have shied away from provoking any further confrontation with the Commissioners and Cardiff. However, with completely new local boundaries being forced onto Anglesey next year specifically to get rid of Independent councillors, I wonder why they feel they have anything more to lose? They cannot be penalised any further by Cardiff — it would be better for their electoral chances next year if they returned to their traditional low tax roots and made a stand on behalf of Anglesey residents by voting against this rise on March 6th. These rises are not purely to safeguard services and facilities, therefore it surely cannot be right to impose the single largest council tax increase in the entire United Kingdom on its third poorest area.