Council tax rise of 3.95% agreed in Monmouthshire

4:11pm Saturday 1st March 2014

MONMOUTHSHIRE council tax will increase by 3.95 per cent this year after councillors passed budget plans at a marathon meeting on Thursday.

They debated the proposed budget for about eight hours and voted to accept it in its entirety.

Cllr Phil Murphy, the cabinet member for resources, said cuts which have led to the tax rise were necessary because of “continued low funding from the Welsh Government.”

He said the authority was maintaining “above average achievement” with “below average spending” and was making “a modest call” on its reserves by increasing its council tax.

The leader of the Labour group, Cllr Dimitri Batrouni proposed to reverse cuts on special educational needs (SEN) funding and increases on swimming charges on over 60s.

He also opposed street lighting being turned off to save £85,000 per year.

But councillors voted against adopting the amendments.

And Cllr Bob Greenland, the council’s deputy leader, attacked what he said was Labour's “pie in the sky, fantasy economics”. He said the county council was approaching the “very minimum [reserve] levels it is prudent to have.”

He said: “I didn’t come into politics to put up charges but that’s the card we’ve been dealt.”

He said the approximate cost of 50 pence per week, which he said swimmers over 60s will be asked to pay, was “reasonable”.

A long string of amendments put forward by independents were also rejected.

They included a proposal to hold a referendum across the county for all council tax increases over two per cent.

The county council’s other deputy leader Cllr Phil Hobson said the £10,000 Cllr Graham Down had allocated for his plan would have been far higher, and more likely to be closer to £100,000.

The meeting became heated when Cllr Debby Blakebrough was told to “be a good girl” by chair Cllr David Dovey after several councillors became frustrated by the time she was taking to explain her support of the referendum proposal.

She hit back and told Cllr Dovey: “I am not a 'good girl'. I am a professional woman."

While Cllr Simon Howarth proposed reversing charges on post-16 transport. He said the council had a “moral obligation” to support the proposal. But the charges will now be implemented in September.

The council voted to adopt the Living Wage, or £7.65 per hour, for all county council staff.

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