A FORMER Councillor says he is being stopped on the street regularly by residents who say they cannot afford to pay their council tax.

Bob Mills, who was Newtown South County Councillor for 18 years, says he is being approached on a regular basis by people pleading with him to highlight their struggles to pay the bill.

In March, Powys County Council agreed on a council tax hike of 9.5 per cent after the initial budget was rejected, meaning the bill for a Band D house went up by £9.41 not including community/town council or Dyfed-Powys Police precepts set independently.

Mr Mills said he was shocked the authority set such an increase and says it could mean the council will have to write off the money some residents will be unable to pay.

He said: "After serving 18 years on Powys County Council I resigned my post two years and four months ago.

"I was totally shocked when Powys Council set council tax at nine per cent. For something originally in line with inflation it has got out of all proportion.

"There have been quite a number of people stopping me on the street asking me if I could do something or perhaps take their complaints to the press.

"With council tax at nine per cent, double what it normally is, people are struggling to pay.

"How much council tax will be written off this year from people who cannot afford to pay? There must e a limit on how much tax people are expected to pay for something which normally rises at the rate of inflation."

He added: "Elderly people are playing hell because it is taking the last enjoyment out of their lives.

"These excess charges must stop and council tax must go back to the rate of inflation.

"Benefits (that) high paid workers on Powys Council get, must stop.

"They should pay out of their own pockets, not subsidised by the public."

But Cllr Aled Davies, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, defended the rise earlier this year, stating that the authority had no other option given the settlement it received from the Welsh Government.

He said: “The budget that was approved for this financial year supported key services such as children and adult services as well as school while doing everything we could to protect other services. However, this meant a council tax increase of 9.5 per cent.

“The council has been in the unenviable position of having the poorest settlement in Wales in nine out of the last 10 years, leaving the council in a difficult financial position. We have to fund key services and ensure we support children in need and vulnerable adults, whether in their own homes or in our care, and we have to invest in education.

“With schools and social care dominating our budget, the pressure on remaining services is greater than ever. This year’s budget was the hardest faced by the council when seeking to balance service provision with resident’s ability to pay.

“Throughout the process our priority has been to maximise efficiencies, reducing our running costs where possible. This has meant a reduction in staff in many areas and pressure on others to reduce the level of provision.

“We knew that the increase would be a challenge for some residents but it was the minimum that was needed to protect vital services.”