The Civic Centre in Pontypool
The Civic Centre in Pontypool Credit: Cwmbran Life

HOUSEHOLDS in Torfaen are likely to have to pay more than £70 extra to meet their council tax bills from April.

The ruling Labour cabinet in Torfaen is set to agree a 4.95 per cent increase in the council tax, which will mean a typical Band D home will be billed £1,550.57 for 2024/25.

It says the increase works out at an extra £73.13, a year or £1.41 a week and will provide the borough council with an additional £53.4 million to fund local services from schools through to waste collection.

Finance chiefs are warning however over the next four years, through to the 2028/29 financial year, the authority faces a £35.2 million budget shortfall.

Its medium-term financial plan is based on a continued 4.95 per cent council tax increase each year and an assumption Welsh Government funding for councils will only increase by one per cent each year. Those funding streams will only provide an additional £18.9 million over the four-year period.

The current year’s budget, which includes the proposed council tax rise, is due to be discussed by the cabinet when it meets on Tuesday, February 20, which will recommend it to the full council which will be asked to agree the budget, including the council tax rise, when it meets a week later at the Civic Centre, Pontypool.

The total budget stands at £231.4 million and the report by the council’s top finance officer, Nigel Aurelius, describes it as “affordable” with “minimal service implications”.

It includes £723,335 of redundancy and associated pension costs due to two service redesigns, intended to save £1.84 million, and recommends using the expected £1.1 million in year underspend to meet those costs rather than using reserves.

The report also says any additional money, as the UK Government has provided an extra £500 million for council in England, should be used to cover any potential pay rises or other unexpected costs.

The Welsh Government will receive £25 million as a result of the extra cash for English councils and has indicated that will be allocated to Welsh councils, with £10.6 million to reinstate the social care workforce development grant benefitting all councils.

If Torfaen receives a share of the remaining £14.4 million, to be added to the local government settlement, it is recommended that is used as cover for pay rises, above the £7.1 million already allocated for pay inflation and awards which are agreed nationally, or other costs.

The budget includes a 4.32 per cent increase for schools which provides them with an extra £3.18 million this year, with £462,000 to meet estimated additional running costs due to the expansion of Cwmbran’s Crownbridge School.

Social care services will be maintained based on demand of around 936 adults and an average level of 432 financial placements in children’s services are also funded, which is a reduction of 18 on the current year.

Just over half a million pounds is earmarked for energy and fuel inflation costs while £357,000 is put aside for additional costs in the waste service and there is a one off use of reserves to support the Greenmeadow Community Farm, in Cwmbran, during its redevelopment.

The council tax reduction scheme is also funded based on demand of 9,666 households needing support in paying their bills including the 4.95 per cent rise.

A £70,000 shortfall in the budget, identified after officers and councillors had agreed a budget plan that fell just £38,000 short of its available funds, due to the late receipt of a revised Coroners Court levy has also been closed. It is planned to meet the additional £32 through increased fees across council services which hadn’t previously been accounted for.

The council anticipates at the end of this financial year, on March 31, it will have £32.4 million in its reserves.