Caerphilly County Borough Council is facing calls to lower its proposed 3.9% council tax increase.
On Wednesday (February 17), the council’s cabinet agreed its new budget plans, which included council tax increases, with no funding cuts to services.
What is Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet?
A council’s cabinet is made up of councillors in charge of different policy areas – such as education, environment, local economy, etc – and a leader.
It is separate to the council’s corporate management structure, which is headed up by its chief executive and various directors. Cabinet is made up of councillors, who are elected and have the ultimate say.
Typically, cabinet members are councillors from the party with the most elected council members.
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet is made up of:
- Cllr Philippa Marsden (Ynysddu) – Leader
- Cllr Sean Morgan (Nelson) – Deputy leader / Economy and enterprise
- Cllr Colin Gordon (Pontllanfraith) – Corporate services
- Cllr Eluned Stenner (New Tredegar) – Finance, performance and customer services
- Cllr Ross Whiting (Risca West) – Learning and achievement
- Cllr Shayne Cook (Morgan Jones) – Social care
- Cllr John Ridgewell (Ynysddu) – Environment and infrastructure
- Cllr Lisa Phipps (Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen) – Housing and property
- Cllr Nigel George (Risca East) – Waste and public protection
Corporate management is made up of unelected employees of the council and has responsibility for day-to-day management of services, such as making sure the bins are collected. Corporate directors work with cabinet members to come up with policy which is then agreed upon by the cabinet.
The proposed increase in council tax means an extra 89p per week on a band D property, or 59p on a band A house.
The increase in council tax would contribute £3 million to a £14.1m budget shortfall, with previously approved cuts making up £2m and the Welsh Government settlement the remaining £9m.
But Llanbradach councillor Colin Mann, who leads the council’s Plaid Cymru group, has called for the increase to be reduced to 2.4%.
Cllr Mann said: “We’re in the middle of a terrible pandemic and many people are really struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. Yet, the Labour council thinks the right thing to do is hike the council tax by almost 4%.
“Earlier this week the Bevan Foundation reported that the pandemic was deepening existing inequality in Wales with nearly a quarter of Welsh homes seeing their income fall due to a mixture of redundancies and furlough pay.
“Why would a Labour council want to heap a greater burden on the residents of Caerphilly County?”
He suggested funds of around £850,000 could be found to reduce the council tax increase without impacting frontline services, but accused the Labour group of wanting to “impose further pain on local residents”.
Plaid Cymru councillor Teresa Parry, who represents Hengoed, said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to family incomes and the last thing they want to see is a huge hike in the council tax of nearly 4%.”
Meanwhile, independent councillor Kevin Etheridge also called for the council tax rise to be lowered and suggested money from reserves should be used.
He said: “We believe it should be far lower. We’ve got people losing their jobs, insolvencies and foodbank use.
“We think it’s totally inappropriate and totally unjustified.”
Cllr Eluned Stenner, cabinet member for finance, told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that Caerphilly has the second lowest band D council tax rate in Wales.
But Cllr Stenner said she was “fully aware” of the concerns raised by residents about the proposed increase, who she said were ‘struggling’ with job losses, furlough and family finances.
“I realise that this increase will be a real concern for many families in the borough,” she said.
“However I would urge those families to contact the authority and seek the help that is out there.”
Council leader Cllr Philippa Marsden welcomed the news there would be no new cuts.
“It’s the first budget of many years that has no cuts,” she said.
“I can’t emphasise that enough because we have been plagued with cuts year on year.”
Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service
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