Council Tax - A message from County Councillor David Williams
Please see two messages below which County Councillor David Williams has asked to be published on the website.
This is the first of two posts that I am having put on Facebook for me which is Cindy and my response to criticisms of our Communication in the village. The next one will be about the budget.
It appears that Clare Huber is anxious for Cindy and I to provide Facebook contributors with details of the proposed Council tax rise. Cindy and I do not do Facebook due to what I have described to Clare as the level of hysteria and inaccurate entries that go on that would be impossible for us to address. My intention was to put the budget information on Facebook through a friend, but this has been my first opportunity having had my time heavily consumed by other topics and other budget related communication.
It could be argued that by communicating on Facebook we could relay things more effectively, and be able to nip some things in the bud, but as I am sure most readers will appreciate, some people will never let some topics rest and never be satisfied with answers or explanations they are given. Recent events of my email exchanges with one resident and the entries on Facebook that I have been shown tends to prove my point.
Clare and one or two others are also keen for Cindy and I to hold surgeries, and she claims that some other wards do. As I have explained to Clare though, the wards she refers to have nothing like the amount of issues to deal with as we do in Pen-y-ffordd, and this is broadly recognised around the county and further afield. I accept that it would be something worth considering and will not dismiss holding them in the future, but we need to remember that what we are doing is supposed to be a part time vocation. For Cindy and I, this past four years in particular has turned into virtually full time with the amount of work we have to do, so to add surgeries really would increase the burden on us. I also advised a few weeks ago through Facebook that we are always available at the monthly Community Council meetings that have a public questions slot and are well publicised, so would really question if surgeries really are necessary?
I have explained in previous post put on for me that Cindy and I are very visible in the village and our contact details are well publicised on the website, news letters and various other places. We are contacted on a daily basis on all sorts of issues that can be general for the village or very personal matters to do with social services, housing etc. Apart from the very few exceptions, residents are always polite, understanding and appreciative of our efforts, but from what I have been shown of some of the posts, some people on Facebook are downright rude and disrespectful. These people who want to have a go at Cindy, Myself and our Community Councilors unfortunately do not have the courage to stand up and be counted, as was evident for the last elections where there were only two nominations for the two places on County, and just seven nominations out of thirteen for Community places!
With regards to communication therefore, I accept that there is room for improvement, but at the same time I would hope that our residents will appreciate that we do work exceptionally hard for our village and always make ourselves available to help where needed.
I hope this helps to explain the situation, and my account of what went on at the budget meeting will follow.
Thank you for your time.
Firstly, the budget meeting was very intense with some rather heated debating. The group I am in was part of others who put a motion in to use reserves to keep the rise down. This was defeated. The vote for the increase was moved by the controlling Labour group and supported by the majority.
This is a very difficult process and not everything is as black and white as it may appear. My group and I have had many meetings and discussions with officers, making various suggestions on bridging the gap through various means but these have been rejected by officers and the controlling group. Their rationale for not going along with our suggestions has been quite compelling, and without significant cuts to service it has been virtually impossible to disagree with their recommendations.
I abstained from the vote on the motioned increase as I could not go along with such an increase, but was unable to go against professional accountants and officers recommendations, including guidance from the Welsh Audit Office!
On council revenue, the increased revenue from housing was a fair point made by Clare in recent communication, but still does not meet the necessary demands to bridge the gap between funds available and desired spending. The brown bin charge made only a small contribution to the increase of council revenue. Some claims are being made that Councillors allowance have increased, but as explained in a previous post I put on, this was rejected unanimously by members a few months ago.
Clare has expressed some very strong opinions on this budget, as I understand others have on Facebook, and it is for this reason that I have offered to arrange a meeting for her with senior finance officer/accountants to debate the matter with them. Clare declined this offer, but if any Facebook reader is willing to put themselves forward I will happily make the arrangements. I do not feel that I have the financial or technical knowledge to debate any further that I already have, but I would be more than happy for somebody else to put themselves forward and try.
For clarity, Flintshire has made cuts after cuts over the past ten years because of austerity and poor funding and are currently in 19th position out of 22 in the funding table for Welsh Councils. From figures we have been provided with, band D Council tax in Flintshire is currently £1,178 and Wrexham is £1,398, Welsh average is £1,219. Our neighbours over the border at band D in Cheshire West is £1,448, Cheshire East £1,404 and Wirral £1,480. Maybe this is why we are such an attractive County to live in with the lowest Council tax and currently better services than most of our neighbours!?
The impact of the rise as it is on a band D property, is £124-01 a year, making it £10-33 a month and £2-38 a week. A 5% increase would have been £79-84 a year, £6-65 a month, £1-54 a week rise. I am not saying I agree with this increase because I certainly don't, but unfortunately I do not have the answers other than going into the reserves.
I therefore hope this information makes things clearer for you, and if you want to have a look at the full debate to see who said and voted for what, the meeting can be viewed by following the link of : Webcast for 9a
Thank you for your time,