COUNCIL tax will rise by nearly four per cent in Torfaen after councillors agreed final budget plans.

The 3.95 per cent increase, which equates to a rise of £51.96 per year on a band D property, was approved at a full meeting of Torfaen council on Tuesday.

Any major cuts have been avoided, and a previous proposal to increase council tax by 4.95 per cent lowered, following a better-than-expected settlement from the Welsh Government, which saw the authority receive a 4.5 per cent increase in funding.

Cllr Kelly Preston, executive member for resources, said the authority had tried to keep “any rise as low as possible”, while protecting and investing in services.

“Any suggestions we can freeze or lower council tax further will simply put essential services at risk and hurt our communities,” she added.

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(Cllr Kelly Preston said the council tried to keep the rise as low as possible. Picture: Torfaen Council.)

The increase, in percentage terms, is believed to be among the lowest in Wales.

Cllr Preston said it will enable the authority to protect “some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

But Conservative councillor Raymond Mills said he was “extremely unhappy” with the budget, saying more money is still needed from the Welsh Government settlement.

“While I do appreciate and I am pleased it has increased, I feel it is still nowhere near enough to give us the financial resources to provide the services our residents should expect to receive,” he said.

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(Cllr Raymond Mills said he was “extremely unhappy” with the budget. Picture: Torfaen Council.)

Independent councillor Ron Burnett said the council tax rise would not be popular, but services have to be protected.

“Nobody is ever going to be happy out there today that [council tax] has gone up by 3.95 per cent but how do we pay for our vital services,” he added.

The budget includes an extra £3.4 million for schools in the county borough and protection of the children’s services budget.

It also includes an investment of £250,000 in a school leaver scheme, aimed at helping young people to achieve their aspirations, and £100,000 set aside to business rate relief for small businesses.

A one-off spend of up to £150,000 will be used to support ‘greening and cleaning’ initiatives, including a Spring clean.

Council leader, Cllr Anthony Hunt, thanked the Welsh Government for an improved settlement, and said he hopes it becomes “the new normal.”