Confirmatory statistics were released today on council tax rates agreed by Wales’ local authorities, revealing the levy has increased by 6.6% - more than 4% over consistent inflation rates – across the country.
This leaves the average household in Wales with a £1,591 bill, nearly £100 higher than the current financial year.
Council tax in Wales has risen by an astonishing 221% since the UK Labour Government took control of Wales of 1997/ 98, a far greater leap than that of England or Scotland.
This means only two out 22 local authorities – Rhondda Cynon Taf and Neath Port Talbot – have not broken the informal 5% increase cap set by Welsh Government, but they are in receipt of some of the most generous financial settlements.
The hikes fail to tally with the most recent figures which show that local authorities in Wales are sitting on £1.4bn in reserves (as of 31st March 2018). Labour-run Rhondda Cynon Taf has hoarded £152m in usable reserves, eight times the size of Monmouthshire. Ten councils have increased their reserves since 2016, ranging from 2% to 21% in Labour authority Torfaen.
The highest council tax rises for the upcoming financial year come in Pembrokeshire (10%), Powys (9.7%), Anglesey, and Conwy (both 9.1%). All but one of these had their budgets cut in cash terms for 2019/20 by the Welsh Labour-led Government.
Given that the local government funding formula is heavily influenced by deprivation indicators, confusion surrounds the locations of the largest increases. Prosperity levels per head (GVA) in Anglesey are just under half those in of Cardiff, yet the Welsh Government’s Final Local Government Settlement for 2019-20 gave Cardiff a 0.9% increase, whilst the councils with the largest cuts of -0.3 include Anglesey - which is now facing one of the highest hikes in council tax.
Despite its high levels of deprivation, Blaenau Gwent had the highest council tax for the average Band D property in Wales – £1,928 – while Pembrokeshire, despite its rise, maintains the lowest rate in Wales – £1,377.
The Welsh Government has faced months of criticism for their treatment of local authorities in Wales, from their punishing allocation of funds to a Minister calling councils “Oliver Twist” after being put in a position to ask for more money.
Welsh Conservative and Shadow Local Government Minister Mark Isherwood AM, said:
“There has been no let-up for hard-pressed council taxpayers, who, in Wales, spend the largest proportion of their wages on council tax in Britain at 6%, compared with 5.84% in England and 4.19% in Scotland.
“Hard-working people are now set to shoulder heavier burdens in the years ahead after two decades of Welsh Labour having responsibility for council tax, with those in North and Mid Wales facing the toughest decisions this year.
“This is why a Welsh Conservative Government would initiate the first comprehensive review of the local government settlement formula for the first time since the dawn of devolution – so council taxpayers get a fairer slice of the cake.
“As the 20th anniversary of devolution approaches, it cannot be stressed enough that for Wales to take control of its destiny, it must hold those who control the levers of power to account properly: the Welsh Government must stop deflecting blame and accept responsibility for its actions.”