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04  March

COLUMN: Powys Council Tax broken promises

28/01/2024 @ 03:26


It’s Council Tax season and any day now we will be finding out exactly how much more we will all have to pay. In the meantime, Plaid Cymru’s election candidate Elwyn Vaughan shares his views.

“It’s that time of year again where Council Tax rates are pushed ever upwards. This year the Lib Dem-led Powys Cabinet are proposing a 7.5% increase at a time where many are already under immense financial pressure - despite promising in leaflets around Llanidloes last election: “If the Liberal Democrats are running Powys after the May elections we will freeze council tax”. Blatantly misleading the public.

A new financial year looms. The government is reportedly in the mood for pre-election tax cuts; the opposition talks of iron fiscal discipline.

And all around us, a familiar disaster grinds on: constant increases in demand on our most crucial public services, which the councils charged with providing them simply cannot meet.

The result is a story that speaks volumes about Westminster’s state of contorted denial: increasing numbers of our cities, towns and counties now face bankruptcy, but no one in any position of power and influence seems to want to talk about it. Labour will blame Westminster while the Conservatives will blame Labour in Cardiff.

Yet, let’s not forget who started the era of cuts, who jumped into bed with the Tories enabling a decade and more of suffering, but the Lib Dems! 

The Brexit effect on the UK economy has cost £140bn so far and up to £311bn by middle of decade, say analysts at Cambridge econometrics. It’s already cost 6% lower GVA in 2023.

Then we have the Liz Truss-bonkers budget costing £36bn. It’s effect on inflation, pushing interest rates higher, pushing wage cost higher, making capital projects more expensive and costing millions to local authorities.

That’s why need radical change.

In reality we should get rid of the Council Tax. It doesn’t reflect income levels and is regressive. But also we need proper ability to control our own assets, to receive the resources we deserve.

Wales should receive the HS2 funds due circa £3bn enabling investment in capital projects.

We should control the Crown Estate which, in Wales, owns about 65% of the Welsh foreshore and riverbed, and more than 50,000 acres of land. In 2020-21, the value of the estate went from £96.8m to £603m, reflecting the value of the land for renewable development and other projects.

Since 2016, the Crown Estate has been devolved in Scotland generating £12m income last year to help public services.

Then we need a needs-based review of the Barnett formula to ensure correct parity of funding enshrined into law as an Economic Fairness (Wales) Bill to re-balance the wealth of the UK

Wales should stop funding England's universities and exacerbating the brain drain and invest in our own education system.

We simply need the political will to control our assets. For fairness, justice and equity of distribution of resources for parity of power. Let’s shout out and say no to ever higher Council Taxes and let’s take control of our destiny in Wales.