COUNCIL tax in Newport will rise by 5.95 per cent after councillors agreed a new budget with cuts worth nearly £7 million.

A proposed 6.95 per cent hike was reduced following increased Welsh Government funding, though council leader Debbie Wilcox says the authority still faced a ‘challenging financial environment’.

Councillors heard the council tax increase, combined with cutbacks, represented a ‘fair balance’ to protect frontline services but opposition councillors said residents were being asked to ‘pay more for less’.

Cllr Wilcox said the Welsh Government had delivered on its promise to give further funding to local government but admitted more money was needed.

“The ongoing financial austerity is making choices increasingly difficult and the council has a significant budget challenge,” said the leader.

South Wales Argus: Councillor Debbie WilcoxCouncillor Debbie Wilcox

“This council provides more than 800 activities and services important to all in our city, particularly the most vulnerable.

“Demand and the costs for those service have increased significantly over the years. Despite uncertainties, my administration will continue to look forward and with confidence in running this city".

The council tax increase adds nearly £63 to the annual bill for a Band D property, up to £1,120.

READ MORESenCom decision 'deferred' by Newport City Council until March 2020

But Councillor Matthew Evans, leader of the Conservative group, described the budget as ‘unacceptable and immoral’ and the rise in council tax as ‘massive’.

The former council leader said plans to bring parking charges to Tredegar Park and Fourteen Locks Canal Centre would hit people on low incomes the hardest.

South Wales Argus: The Fourteen Locks Canal Centre in RogerstoneThe Fourteen Locks Canal Centre in Rogerstone

“You continue to blame Westminster but this year, your Labour lot in Cardiff Bay received an additional £400 million in revenue,” said Cllr Evans.

“Just 11 per cent has been allocated to local government. That’s their decision, and I suggest you direct your anger down there.”

Conservative councillor William Routley went further by saying there was no such thing as austerity, blaming Welsh councils for operating under a ‘smoke and mirrors regime’.

Labour councillor Phil Hourihane said Conservative-led governments had ‘raped’ Wales, prompting a warning from Mayor Malcolm Linton after other councillors repeated his choice of words.

Cllr Hourahine said the Barnett formula, which dictates the level of public spending in the UK’s devolved nations, was ‘unfair’ on Wales and that Newport had been ‘laid to waste’.

But Conservative councillor David Fouweather said Labour did nothing to change the formula during their time in power at Westminster, adding that Labour had controlled Newport council for 39 of the last 43 years.

South Wales Argus: Councillor David FouweatherCouncillor David Fouweather

“That’s your city to waste, your responsibility,” he said.

Labour councillor Ray Truman said local government budgets across England and Wales had been ‘slashed’ regardless of who’s to blame.

“This budget was probably the worst one we’ve ever had to make, and it’s going to get worse,” he said.

Newport Independents councillor Chris Evans urged all party groups to come together for next year’s budget and suggest creative solutions.

“It’s ‘Labour good, Tory bad’ or ‘Tory Bad, Labour good’ – it’s a mess,” added Cllr Evans.

Following the debate, a vote saw 31 councillors vote in favour of the budget with 15 abstentions.