COUNCIL tax in Newport could be set to go up by an inflation busting 4.5 per cent with rates likely to rise by £38 a year for Band D households.
A planned cut to city centre Christmas events has been dropped – with promises that funding for the events will be ring fenced for three years – but most of the rest of a package of £20 million in cuts over four years is staying on the table.
Funding for the city’s Christmas lights switch-on has been secured. And sponsorship is being sought for large-scale events Newport Food Festival and the Big Splash.
Senior councillors in the council’s cabinet made recommendations for the authority’s budget for 2014/15 at a meeting yesterday – with full council set to decide on the matters when it meets on February 25.
Estimates suggest that a 4.5 per cent rise would put council tax rates for Band D properties at £893.37 before precepts are applied – an increase of £38.48 a year, or 74p a week.
The Consumer Prices Index rate of inflation stood at 2.7 per cent last September.
With the budget having been based on a five per cent increase for council tax, Labour council leader, Councillor Bob Bright explained he was able to take the decision thanks to a surplus of more than £200,000.
He told the cabinet meeting at Newport Civic Centre that there was “enormous pressure on the budget” and that there had to be a balance between council tax and their responsibilities.
After a 4.5 per cent rise was proposed by cabinet member for skills and work Debbie Davies, Cllr Bright said the message needed to get out that Newport has one of the lowest council tax rates in Wales.
Cllr Bright told the Argus after the meeting that he was using the surplus to offset the council tax rate.
“We don’t want to make any more people redundant than absolutely necessary,” said the leader. “That’s why we need to go to 4.5 per cent.”
Cllr Davies said: “It was a difficult decision but (one) I felt fair, particularly given that we will continue to have one of the lowest council tax rates in Wales and indeed the UK.”
According to budget documents that even if Newport had raised council tax by five per cent it would still have the second lowest rate in Wales.
Tory opposition leader Cllr Matthew Evans said he recognised that there should be an increase in council tax.
However he said increases should be based on the rate of inflation.
“Clearly people are still struggling. We think it’s unfair and unreasonable to put additional burdens on council tax payers,” he argued.