OPPOSITION group leaders believe there is a lack of detail in the budget proposal approved by Powys County Council (PCC) cabinet.

On Tuesday, January 21, PCC’s cabinet  agreed a five per cent rise in the council tax in its draft budget which will also see £11 million worth of cuts or cost reductions needing to be made in 2021/21.

This came on the back of a draft budget settlement from the Welsh Government which gave PCC an extra £9.5 million in funding – taking it up the funding table to 14 of the 22 local authorities in Wales.

PCC’s budget is due to be finalised at a full council meeting on February 28 having gone through the scrutiny committee process.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat – Green Group, Cllr James Gibson-Watt, (Glasbury) said: “I can’t see the justification for a five per cent increase when the council has received such a large rise in the settlement.

“This will cause concern to our residents and many councillors.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt continued: “Education is one where we see a cut proposed just after a rough Estyn report.

“Cuts in scrutiny and member services are a concern as it hits the ability of councillors to do their work as well as the cuts to the planning department.

“I have many complaints over planning issues as it is, and if we are to improve the economy it goes hand in hand with a slick planning service, I can’t see how it will be better.

“You look at the budget  reports and there’s not enough detail in what’s being proposed.

“There are lots of areas of concern and over the next few weeks we will be challenging the assumptions that this budget is based on.”

Labour Group Leader Cllr Matthew Dorrance (Brecon St John) said: “It’s very good news that PCC will receive a 4.2 per cent increase in funding from the Welsh Government.

“But it’s bitterly disappointing that Conservative and Independent Councillors who run the Council don’t want to use that significant funding boost to properly invest in our communities and our public services.

“Instead, residents in Powys are being asked once again to pay the price of the Council’s failings.”

“Labour Councillors know that times are tough – that’s why our priority will always be investing in communities.”

Plaid Cymru group leader, Elwyn Vaughan (Glantwymyn), said: “Let’s not be under illusion that things will be easy in the future with a worse case scenario showing that a further £49 million of reductions will be needed by 2024/5.

“Bearing in mind that £5.3 million of budget proposals have been deemed to be unachievable in the current financial year (2019/20) it does not bode well.

“We are deeply concerned about the over expenditure in children’s social services yet again and of the proposed cuts in scrutiny staff despite being criticised by the Wales Audit Office in 2018.

“Likewise the proposed five per cent increase in council tax will put further pressure on hard pressed families, this after a 9.5 per cent increase last year.”

Cllr Vaughan had three suggestions for the budget:

  • Increase the tax on holiday homes thus boosting income by around £700,000
  • Being an asset strong authority, sell £10 million worth of assets to relieve pressure
  • Review the capital expenditure on such projects as Ladywell House and waste to energy to ensure effective use of resources

Cllr Jeremy Pugh, group spokesman for Action for Powys, said: “You can’t keep cutting or selling assets.

“As once they are sold they’re gone forever, we will be robbing the next generation of them  to prop up a failing business plan.”

“It’s getting much more difficult for families to pay and if we take the top eight per cent of earners out of the calculations – we’d find the reality of how low wages are in Powys.”