Swansea residents could see tax rise of 5.99% in April to help fund school and social service budgets

COUNCIL tax in Swansea could rise by 5.99% in April to help fund increases in school and social services budgets and reduce the overall savings burden.

Cabinet members will be asked to approve the hike at a meeting on February 15 but the final amount won’t be confirmed until the budget is set in early March.

And with the Welsh Government still to publish its final settlement for councils, the 5.99% figure could change.

Swansea Labour said 1% of the council tax rise would be to cover an expected increase in the council’s funding contribution to Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

The 5.99% rise would follow a 5.95% increase last year and mean Band D council tax bills going up nearly £93 – from £1,549.08p to £1,641.95p. What people actually pay is higher because of the South Wales Police precept, which will be £352.67p for Band D properties in 2024-25.

The proposed council tax increase in neighbouring Carmarthenshire is 6.5%, while a recommendation about Neath Port Talbot’s will go before councillors in early March.

Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said: “Councils are facing some of the most severe financial situations ever due to a combination of rising inflation, higher costs and extra demands from residents, whilst having our Government funding reduced in real terms.

“We have a strong track record of using our money wisely and driving down our costs which means we can now put record funding into vital services such as schools and social services.”

As things stand the council will get £433.59 million from the Welsh Government for day-to-day spending. Council tax will bring in a further £154 million, with an additional £2.2 million coming from town and community council tax.

Added together this makes £589.8 million, most of which will be parcelled out to schools and council departments. Schools will get £201 million, social services £171 million, and the environment, waste and culture department – known as the place department – £73.6 million. Just over £36.8 million will be used to pay back borrowing.

Around £50 million more is being added to the 2024-25 budget compared to this year, but savings of around £25 million will be needed, meaning the net increase is around £25 million. Every department, and schools themselves, will need to contribute to this £25 million savings requirement. Some of the savings will be met by increases in fees for things like burials and cremations. Other revenue-raising measures include the deployment of an additional parking enforcement camera car, and new Swansea Market rental charges.

Cllr Stewart said: “We’re protecting frontline services at a time when many other councils are having to close leisure centres, libraries and reduce their black bag waste collections to balance their books. We know families are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and we are doing all we can to support them through these difficult times.”

Cllr Chris Holley, leader of the Liberal Democrat-Independent opposition group, said the 5.99% council tax rise exceeded inflation and in his view was too high. “We are planning to come forward with an amendment to cut it,” he said.

CllrHolley also pointed out that next year’s £589.8 million budget was less than the council’s debt, which stood at £693.8 million at the end of September 2023.

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