Public to have say on Monmouthshire tax rises

PEOPLE in Monmouthshire can have their say on council plans to raise council tax and turn off street lights as part of cost-cutting measures in next year’s budget.

Members of the cabinet met at the County Hall in Rhadyr near Usk to discuss the proposals for the Budget 201/15 and how they can reduce a spending gap of £2.9 million in the council's four year medium term financial plan. The budget proposals were approved and will now go into a consultation period which will allow the public to comment at the end of January.

The council has to make a saving of £12.8 million over the next four years.

The budget proposes an increase in council tax of three per cent and aims to create £134,000 of savings in leisure services alone.

The proposals include switching off street lights between midnight and 5am and an increase in school meals from £1.65 to £2.

Cllr Phil Murphy, cabinet member responsible for finance, said that the school budget would be protected and that future schools programme has been factored into the budget. He said: “The focus is on developing services to be as sustainable as possible and to avoid further cuts to front line services. The overspend of 2013/14 has been retained in the budget figures.”

The council was the first in Wales to directly engage with communities on next year’s budget which took place in October.

Peter Fox, leader of the council, said: “Everyone has got involved in this from officers to the public. This has been a new way to do the budget this year.

“Many ideas have been morphed into proposals. The public consolation is an opportunity to talk to people and for the public to help close the gap. I hope we can explore these opportunities together.”

Cllr Robert Greenland, cabinet member for Innovation, Enterprise and Leisure, hoped that a new sustainable model could be found for the Gilwern and Usk libraries which are threatened with closure.

He said: “Last night I had quite a productive meeting with the Usk library group. We need to move forward to find the right model.

“I want to ensure residents that Gilwern and Usk library services will continue much as it has until negotiation this have been completed for new models.”

Cllr Simon Haworth criticised the timescale of the budget proposals. He said: “We never delivered on our last budget. What guarantees can be made to make this years.

“The budget is 12 weeks away I don’t think we will deliver these outcomes. We have to make them more realistic.”

The first public consolation will be at Caldicot School on January 9 and the second at Chepstow School on January 14. The budget will be discussed on February 27 at the County Hall.

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