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NEWS POLITICS BUDGET 24

County councillors approve budget

Powys County Council’s budget for 2024/2025 which includes a 7.5 per cent Council Tax rise has been approved, by a whisker.

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By Elgan Hearn
Local Democracy Reporter

1 month ago 1202 views

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Powys County Council’s budget for 2024/2025 which includes a 7.5 per cent Council Tax rise has been approved, by a whisker.

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At a stormy full council meeting on Thursday, February 22 councillors debated the budget for 2024/2025 for three hours.

Next year’s council budget is set to go up to of £341.2 million after the council were told they would receive a 2.8 per cent increase in funding from the Welsh Government just before Christmas.

Earlier this month the Welsh Government announced that Powys will receive a further $570,000.

To balance next year’s budget a funding gap of £18.458 million needs to be plugged,

Of that figure £10.652 million of this will be addressed by the council in a mixture of cuts, savings, and income generation.

The Council Tax increase is supposed to cover the remaining £7.805 million.

During two hours into the debate the budget started moving towards a decision after Conservative Cllr Gareth Pugh proposed removing a £50,000 saving in the budget that would be made by taking black bin waste to the North Powys Bulking Facility in Abermule.

The saving would be made by ending the contract with Potters in Welshpool which currently deals with residual waste.

In a scrutiny last month, council officer defended the proposal by pointing out the permit to run the controversial faculty allowed black bin waste to be dealt with at the site.

Councillors had been told that past assurances to the villagers that black bin waste would not be taken to Abermule should not tie the hands of the council years later.

Cllr Pugh whose Dolforwyn ward includes Abermule said: “Residents feel very betrayed by this proposal.

“Black bag waste is a very odorous product, still carries food waste, pet waste and nappies.”

He claimed that businesses that are based in the “prestigious” business units next to the facility would leave the site if black bin waste were brought to Abermule and causes a smell.

Cllr Pugh said that the council could end up having empty units and an “embarrassing white elephant” all for the sake of £50,000.

Cllr Pugh said:  “I would like to remove the saving from the budget, and the £50,000 found from elsewhere in the budget, from the risk fund or reserves.”

“If this doesn’t get planning then there’s no saving.”

Fellow Tory Cllr Karl Lewis backed his proposal.

Council chairwoman, Cllr Beverley Baynham asked for legal advice on whether the proposal was seen as a minor amendment and could be voted upon.

Head of legal and monitoring Clive Pinney reminded councillors of the rules governing the budget debate.

He that minor amendments need to rise from the “course of debate” and not “negate or change” the material substance of the proposal.

Director of corporate services and s151 officer Jane Thomas said: “In terms of the value it is a minimal adjustment.

“I’ve been asked to have a discussion with the director I don’t have a balanced proposal at this point in time.”

At this point, the meeting adjourned for lunch.

The meeting was supposed to re-start at 1.30pm but resumed at 2pm.

The Local Democracy Reporting services understand that the meeting was late re-starting due to behind the scenes discussions taking place between senior council officers and councillors to find the £50,000.

On the resumption of the meeting Cllr Baynham said: “The s151 officer (Jane Thomas) has had time to look at Cllr Pugh’s amendment.

“I have also had an opportunity to discuss it with the monitoring officer (Clive Pinney) and have come to a conclusion that it is not an amendment that can be accepted as it doesn’t balance the budget.

“Therefore, it is rejected on that basis.”

Following another hour’s debate, Cabinet member for a safer Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Church proposed moving the draft budget to a vote.

Cllr Church said: “There have been a huge number of people saying we should be spending more on some things, sometimes the very same people complaining about Council Tax.

“None of those people have come up with an alternative proposal, there is only one proposal on the table and it’s this one.

“I propose we move to a vote now.”

Cllr Baynham agreed that the proposals had received “sufficient debate”.

All nine elements of the budget which include setting the Council Tax, the council’s medium term financial strategy, setting fees and charges and capital budget strategy were all voted on together.

It was announced that 34 councillors had voted in favour of the budget and 32 against.

The Council Tax increase will see £114.33 added to the bill for a Band D dwelling.

Dyfed Powys Police and Town and Community Council precepts need to be added to the final bill.

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