Residents of Swansea may soon face a significant uptick in council tax come April, as the local authority mulls over a 5.99% rise. This potential increase, surpassing current inflation levels, aims to bolster the budgets for schools and social services whilst easing the financial burden on the council. The Cabinet members are set to deliberate on this matter on 15th February, with the final decision pending confirmation upon the budget’s establishment in early March.
The projected 5.99% increment is subject to change pending the Welsh Government’s definitive settlement for councils. A portion of this increase, as per Swansea Labour, is designated to accommodate an expected rise in the council’s funding contribution to the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service.
Should this proposal materialise, it would follow last year’s 5.95% increase, translating to a substantial rise in Band D council tax bills, soaring nearly £93 from £1,549.08 to £1,641.95. However, actual payments may exceed this due to the South Wales Police precept, which is slated to be £352.67 for Band D properties in the fiscal year 2024-25.
Comparatively, neighbouring Carmarthenshire contemplates a steeper rise of 6.5%, while Neath Port Talbot awaits a council decision slated for early March regarding its tax adjustment.
The council leader underscored the severe financial predicaments facing local authorities, citing mounting inflation, escalated costs, and heightened resident demands amidst dwindling government funding. The leader lauded Swansea’s prudent financial management, enabling significant investments in crucial services such as education and social welfare.
As it stands, the council anticipates £433.6 million from the Welsh Government for day-to-day expenditures, complemented by £154 million from council tax and an additional £2.2 million from town and community levies, culminating in a total of £589.8 million. A substantial portion of this allocation is earmarked for schools (£201 million), social services (£171 million), and the environment, waste, and culture department (£73.6 million), with approximately £36.8 million designated for debt repayment.
Despite a projected £50 million increase in the 2024-25 budget compared to the previous year, the council faces a requisite £25 million in savings, necessitating contributions from all departments, including schools. Strategies to meet these savings include fee increases for services like burials and cremations, alongside revenue-generating initiatives such as enhanced parking enforcement and revised Swansea Market rental charges.
The council reiterated its commitment to safeguarding frontline services amid economic challenges, contrasting Swansea’s approach with other councils forced to curtail essential amenities. Acknowledging the prevailing cost-of-living crisis, the council pledged unwavering support to families grappling with financial strains.
In contrast, a councillor, leader of the Liberal Democrat-Independent opposition group, criticized the proposed 5.99% increase, deeming it excessive and surpassing inflation levels. The councillor indicated plans to table an amendment aimed at reducing the tax hike. Additionally, the councillor underscored the fiscal incongruity between the proposed budget and the council’s existing debt, which stood at £693.8 million as of September 2023.
The impending decision on council tax in Swansea underscores the balancing act between funding essential services and addressing financial constraints amid economic uncertainties. As deliberations continue, stakeholders await the outcome with keen interest, mindful of its potential ramifications on household budgets and local service provision.