COUNCIL tax payers in Monmouthshire will see an increase of 2.9 per cent for 2011/12 - an average of 54 pence per week on a band D property, excluding town council and police costs.

At a full council meeting last week, members voted for the increase, in what was described as one of the authority's most difficult budgets in a decade.

Monmouthshire council's head of finance, Cllr Phil Murphy, announced the increase, telling members the key priorities had been to protect front line services.

He said:"The budget setting this year has been the most consulted on ever. We are able to take most of the hit itself by our ongoing review of the management and staffing of every department, collaborating where appropriate, the application of 'lean thinking reviews', the increased use of digital technology, the extension of agile working principles and our accommodation."

He added, that the council would increase funding to the county's schools, beyond WAG requirements, maintain its grant to Citizen Advice Bureaus, and commit to keeping leisure centres, libraries and One Stop Shops open.

Monmouthshire receives the lowest funding settlement from WAG, out of all the 22 local authorities in Wales, and Cllr Murphy said this meant it had to collect more as a percentage of its total budget from council tax than any other authority in Wales. He said: "This year we are forced to recommend an increase albeit a smaller rise than previous recent increases."