Council Tax: Government’s Proposed Increase

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 25th January 2021.

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Photo of Simon Baynes Simon Baynes Conservative, Clwyd South 5:31 pm, 25th January 2021

As a Welsh MP and former councillor, I would have greater respect for the Labour party if it practised in Wales what it is preaching here this afternoon, but I can assure the House that it is not. Not only has Wales seen some of the highest increases in council tax in the UK since 2010, but the latest proposed local government funding settlement by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff has discriminated against a significant number of councils by giving low increases in funding support.

That has been particularly the case in north and mid-Wales, where the average increase in Welsh Government funding support is below the national average, whereas in predominantly Labour-run south Wales, it is above the average, thereby reinforcing the unfairness of the north-south divide. For example, in my constituency of Clwyd South in north Wales, Wrexham County Borough Council has a provisional Welsh Government grant increase of only 2.3%, which is the second lowest in Wales and compares with an average increase in funding support of 4.1% in south Wales. It means that, with the heavy burdens of covid, flooding, snow, increased social care and many other factors, Wrexham County Borough Council will be forced to increase council tax by 6.95%, despite being a well-run council.

It is within the Welsh Government’s power to review this funding settlement, given that it is subject to consultation until 9 February, and I hope that they will do so. But Opposition Members should admit that the Welsh Labour Government are acting in a manner contrary to the terms of the motion before the House. Furthermore, the Welsh Government have the financial means to do this, as they have still not spent about £1 billion of the £5.3 billion that they have received from the UK Government in additional funding due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The approach of the Welsh Government is in stark contrast to that of the UK Government, who have stepped in and confirmed more than £10 billion of direct additional support for councils during the pandemic, plus billions more to ease financial pressures, with councils also receiving a significant boost to their budgets in April in the most generous funding settlement for a decade. In conclusion, I hope that the Labour Government in Cardiff will look to the example set by the UK Government and provide the financial support that is badly needed in these exceptionally difficult times for councils with low average funding settlements in Wales.