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COUNCIL TAX RISES: ‘Lack of transparency’ over budget and council tax rise

COUNCIL TAX RISES: ‘Lack of transparency’ over budget and council tax rise

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Plaid members of Denbighshire council accused its cabinet of a “lack of transparency” in a last ditch attempt to stop council tax rises of 3.8%.

Cllr Mabon ap Gwynfor (Llandrillo ward) told Denbighshire council’s full meeting on Tuesday he used to get “reams of papers” setting out details of business plans and budgets for each department.

He said they’d received none of that information this time, calling it a “cabinet budget” rather than a council one.

Cllr ap Gwynfor said: “This is no way to draw up a budget. There’s a point of principle here that members of the council and indeed the wider community should have an opportunity to scrutinise and have input before being presented.

“We had one budget workshop before Christmas which was the day before the Welsh Government announced the settlement for local authorities, so the discussion was purely hypothetical.

“As elected members we have a job to scrutinise decisions, and ensure the interests of the people we serve are represented.

“There was no way we could do that with so little information and no real consultation.”

Cllr Glenn Swingler (Denbigh Upper/Henllan ward) said more than any other year the budget setting process had been “shocking”.
He said: “We were presented with minimal information, and no details on departmental spends or any movements in the budget.
“Once again we’ve seen the council tax increase at a time when rents are also increasing and service charges are going up – whilst people are struggling to make ends meet.
“We had no opportunity to scrutinise the budget beforehand, and no opportunity to have any input in the process, let alone the public at large who will have to pay for the Council Tax increase.”
Cllr Paul Penlington (Prestatyn North ward) said the rise of 3.8% in council tax meant a Band D property holder forking out £1,436.76 for the county council portion of the charge – more than one month’s wages for many workers in the county.
He said: “As a representative of the people I could not in good conscience vote blindly to further financially burden our residents.”
Lead member for finance, Cllr Julian Thompson-Hill, told them expecting more information after the effects of Covid on the authority’s workload was “naiive in the extreme”.
He added: “We weren’t able to do what we normally do because of Covid. We were presenting the information we had available to us at the time. That’s all we can do.”
Cllr Thompson-Hill said he and the lead officer for finance had discussed giving an extended presentation on the budget this year but Covid had meant they had to shelve the idea.
Despite the revolt councillors voted overwhelmingly to adopt the budget, subject to receiving the cash grant promised by Welsh Government, and approved the 3.8% council tax rise to come in from April.

Words: Jez Hemming, Local Democracy Reporter

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