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Final budget plans and council tax rise agreed by Torfaen council’s cabinet

The Civic Centre in Pontypool
Torfaen Council's Civic Centre

FINAL budget plans in Torfaen will include a 1.95 per cent increase in council tax bills and the introduction of the real living wage in the social care sector.

The council’s cabinet has agreed to finalised budget plans for the upcoming financial year, which will now go before a full council meeting for approval. A proposed 1.95 per cent council tax increase will amount to a band D household paying an extra £27.72 per year, or 53p per week, from April.

The council’s medium-term financial plan originally included council tax rises of 3.95 per cent, but this has been lowered following a better-than-expected settlement from the Welsh Government.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, council leader Cllr Anthony Hunt said the authority had tried to keep bills low, while also not taking short-term decisions which could result in larger increases in future years.

“I realise how hard-pressed people are at the moment with the cost of living crisis,” he said.

“So effectively halving the rate of increase to just 1.9 per cent will be a way of us trying to respond to that.”

Cllr Hunt said the council had received “a good settlement” from the Welsh Government – with a 9.3 per cent rise in funding – but he said pressures remained from the impact of Covid-19 on services and “a decade of austerity”.

Efficiency savings of £1.5 million are also included in the budget, but no service cuts.

A budget of £1.1 million for Covid-19-related pressures has also been created, following the ending of Welsh Government support.

Medium-term financial plans have also been adjusted to include a council tax rise of 1.95 per cent for the following year, 2023/24.

The finalised budget also includes funding to implement the real living wage for staff within the social care sector from April, in a bid to attract and retain staff.

The council has faced a shortage of home care workers following the pandemic, with rates of pay seeing some move into other sectors such as retail.

Cllr David Daniels, executive member for adult services and housing, said paying the real living wage would help stabilise the market and was “vitally needed”.

He added there is “still a way to go” on the issue and that social care is competing with other sectors.

“This is not the end of the process, it’s the beginning of a vitally important change,” Cllr Daniels said.

The final budget will now go before a full council meeting next month.

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Final budget plans and council tax rise agreed by Torfaen council’s cabinet