COUNCIL tax in Torfaen will rise by 5.95 per cent after councillors agreed a new budget following a feisty debate.

Torfaen council needed to find around £3.5million of savings for the next financial year, with the council tax hike raising £2.5million.

The rise will see council tax bills go up by £73.88 for band D properties.

Council leader, councillor Anthony Hunt, said the authority had tried to protect the most vulnerable, with areas such as social care and education protected from cuts.

But the move was opposed by many of the opposition Conservative and Independent councillors who said the rise would hit people who were already struggling.

Cllr Hunt said the council had been left to "make the best of a bad situation", with 10 years of austerity from the UK government stretching authorities to 'breaking point.'

But he said the council's budget was based on "values of compassion", aiming to safeguard services and protect the borough's most vulnerable residents amid austerity.

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Cllr Anthony Hunt

"We cannot have our cake and eat it," he told councillors.

"To pretend we could freeze council tax when our settlements are reducing in real terms without damaging services is irresponsible, a false choice and an impossible promise."

However Independent councillor Janet Jones was among those to oppose the tax hike, saying it would have a "devastating effect" on people already living in poverty.

And Conservative councillor Jason O'Connell suggested a tougher approach to negotiating a settlement from the Welsh Government was needed.

"Torfaen has a pussycat negotiating for us when we need a dragon," he said.

Conservative Nick Jones also claimed 'mismanagement' of the economy by the Welsh Government was to blame for the lack of funding, claiming residents in Torfaen were being asked to "fund the failure in Cardiff."

But Cllr Hunt said going into negotiations "shouting and screaming" would not help, adding that the Welsh Government was itself struggling for money.

He also pointed out the council tax rise was below the Welsh average.

Torfaen council's settlement from the Welsh Government went up 0.6 per cent, with the final figure £132.65 million, around three quarters of the council's budget.

Other savings in the budget include include a new policy asking residents to sort their rubbish at the recycling centre, saving £80,000.

Initial plans to remove a grant for three older persons forums have been removed though.

The budget and council tax rise was approved with 26 councillors voting for the proposals and 15 against.