Later this month the county council will be considering its annual budget and the level of council tax increase being recommended by the cabinet.

The task, which is never easy, has been made even more difficult by the continuing impact of coronavirus on the county, its residents, businesses and communities.

The human and financial impact of the pandemic has been severe, and its consequences will be felt for many years to come.

We have been fortunate that we have received more than £11m in additional support from the Welsh Government this year to offset additional spending and lost income.

We are grateful for the help but as the pandemic continues, we do not know what support will be available into next year so have to be prudent with our resources.

The cabinet is recommending investment in services to meet rising costs and increased demand this investment exceeds the additional funding provided to us by Welsh Government and in order to balance our budget significant cost reductions are also proposed together with an increase of 3.9 per cent in the level of council tax.

This will add £53 a year to the cost of an average band D property.

In proposing this increase in Council Tax, the Cabinet have carefully considered the impact this has on our residents alongside that of maintaining the services that they rely on. A difficult balance every year but one that is even more challenging in the current context.

Despite the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic the county council continues to make progress in delivering the Corporate Improvement Plan.

We launched the Vision 2025 Corporate Improvement Plan in April 2018 with the ambition of being widely recognised as a fantastic place in which to work, live and play by 2025 with four priority areas, the economy, health and care, learning and skills and residents and communities.

An annual update on progress against key priorities will be presented to cabinet next week and to full council in March. It will be a positive report but one that has undoubtedly been affected by the global pandemic.

Last March we invoked our Business Continuity Plan, which has enabled us to concentrate on business-critical activities in response to the pandemic, meaning that some of our Vision 2025 improvement plan had to be put on hold. As the year progressed, we considered the impact of COVID-19 and reviewed our Corporate Improvement Plan to check whether our current objectives were still relevant or whether we needed to focus on new priorities until 2025.

Despite COVID 19 we have made progress against key areas, we have developed and approved a strategy for transforming education in Powys, with completion of new schools in Brecon and Welshpool, signed a Heads of Terms agreement for the Mid Wales Growth Deal with the UK and Welsh Government, started work on 100 new homes in five areas, developed a new co-located library in Welshpool and spent more than £100m with businesses within the county. We’ve also submitted ambitious plans for a North Powys Wellbeing campus in Newtown to Welsh Government, jointly with Powys Teaching Health Board.

We have consulted with residents and businesses in Powys to gather views about the pandemic and what additional support may be needed.

In response we have provided additional support to the Powys economy, processing over £67 million in grants, introducing free parking over the summer, free planning advice for tourism and hospitality businesses, and launched campaigns to #SupportLocalPowys and #DiscoverPowys.

All this while becoming a more efficient council, reducing our overall expenditure.

Hopefully, this year COVID will ease its grip and we can move a little closer to a normal life. The mass vaccination programme is moving at pace in Powys, more than 33,000 residents have already had their first injection, but we are not there yet and need to be patient and keep following government advice.