Anglesey tax rise is second lowest in Wales following pandemic, councillor says

RESIDENTS on Anglesey will pay an extra 2.75 per cent in their council tax from April.

Tuesday’s budget approval means that the average “Band D” property will see bills rise by around £35.91 to £1,340.64 during 2021/22.

An opposition amendment to limit the rise to 2 per cent by using some contingency funds and money set aside for Wylfa Newydd and Parc Adfer failed to attract enough support after being described as “potentially risky”.

However, the 2.75 per cent rise was itself a reduction on the 3.75 per cent originally proposed, the equivalent of an extra £13.05 a year.

According to the Executive, extra Welsh Government grants towards the purchase of Chromebooks for children and new refuse lorries, both of which the authority initially expected to have to fully fund itself, enabled an easing of the hike.

Cllr Robin Williams, the finance portfolio holder, said the 2.75 per cent rise would be the lowest of all the northern authorities and the second lowest in Wales, also reporting that its reserves had recovered to acceptable levels after previously sparking concern at the Wales Audit Office for being “dangerously low”.

Anglesey already has the second lowest council tax rates in the north, around £125 cheaper than neighbouring Gwynedd.

But Cllr Williams also reassured members that Anglesey’s 1 per cent cut in the originally intended rise was “sensible” after the move was described by Gwynedd Council’s chief finance officer as “somewhat risky” during their own budget debate last week when pushed for why Gwynedd was forging ahead with a 3.7 per cent hike despite also receiving similar one-off grants.

Meanwhile, as well as safeguarding service budgets, members welcomed the new investment in professional trainees, public protection and IT equipment for schools.

However, opposition councillors also described the introduction of a £35 annual charge for garden waste collections as a “stealth tax”, despite the non-statutory and “optional” service already being charged for by every other north Wales authority.

Cllr Williams added the importance of having contingency funds in place, citing a Welsh Government offer to contribute £1.85m towards business units on the island as long as Anglesey Council was willing to match fund £150,000.

But Cllr Bryan Owen, the opposition leader, said: “Some of these pots have been dormant for years and we’re not talking about dipping into general reserves,  this is taking money out of pots of money that we can afford to.

“In my view it won’t put any more pressure on the council but would support people during a time they badly need it.”

Cllr Owen’s 2 per cent proposal would have tempered the tax rise by a further £9.81 (Band D).

But Cllr Alun Roberts was fearful that Covid-19 would result in further austerity and cuts in public spending over the coming years.

The 151 officer, Marc Jones, also recommended caution due to much uncertainty over the levels of the 2022/23 central government block grant and an unpredictable economy.

It was also warned that despite the number of child social services referrals decreasing during the lockdown, it was possible that the demand for costly placements would increase significantly as society emerged out of the pandemic.

The ruling group’s proposal for a 2.75 per cent council tax rise was approved by 20 votes to five.

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey