CONSERVATIVE members have voiced frustration after Denbighshire approved its budget for 2024/2025 and passed a council tax increase of 9.34 per cent.

Following a two-and-a-half-hour debate in the council chamber in Ruthin on Tuesday, January 30, 17 councillors voted against the budget and three abstained.

Leader of the Conservative Group, cllr Hugh Irving, supported by other members of the group, including councillors Justine Evans, Brian Jones, Ann Davies, James Elson and Terry Mendies, challenged the principle of the budget, which depends on a substantial increase of 9.3 per cent in council tax, as well as swingeing cuts to frontline services, including libraries.

Speaking after the meeting, cllr Irving said:  “It is incredibly concerning that this budget has been passed and that our residents will now be faced with a council tax hike of a staggering 9.3 per cent, whilst seeing cuts to the services the council provides.  

“Whilst we appreciate the financial challenges facing Denbighshire Council council, the burden should not be placed on hardworking people who are already stretched as a result of global pressures."

Dr James Davies, Vale of Clwyd MP, said: "The truth of the matter is that for every £1 spent in England, £1.20 is passed to the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government’s budget is at virtually the highest level in real terms that it has ever been. It is not ring fenced, so is spent as the Welsh Government choose to spend it.

“We must not forget that the Welsh Government handed £155 million back to the Treasury as a result of an underspend in 2020-21; spent £294,600 renaming the Senedd during a pandemic; pumped some £200m into the failing Cardiff Airport; have spent £33m and rising on the unwanted 20mph speed limit; spend millions on international offices and other non-devolved issues; and are now pushing to increase the number of politicians by 36, at a cost of around £120m. 

“There is no ‘magic money tree’ but councils in England are on average receiving a cash terms 7.5 per cent increase to their budgets and are not permitted to raise council tax above 5 per cent without holding a local referendum.

"The Welsh Government has awarded Denbighshire County Council just a 3.6 per cent increase. Where has the rest of the money gone?"

Dr Davies has received complaints from concerned residents.

Andrew Sheridan of Rhyl, said: "I myself earn not much more than the minimum wage and this rise would push my monthly payments to about £265 per month for a modest size three-bed house. A three or four per cent rise would be a fair outcome." 

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Cllr Evans said: "I am sure there will be much more of a backlash when council tax bills arrive with residents in a few weeks’ time, and it will be elected members who will face the challenge – even those who voted against it. 

"With taxpayers seeing money being wasted by Denbighshire County Council through the spiralling costs of the new recycling model, which residents don't want, the closure of Rhyl Seaquarium, and spending on projects before they have even been granted planning permission, as was the case at Maes Emlyn in Rhyl, it will be impossible for councillors to justify this budget and the hike in council tax to them." 

A number of local authorities in England have had to submit a 141 notice, which is a notice of bankruptcy. Nottingham, Birmingham, and Woking are the latest ones.

One in every five local authorities in England is scared they will have to do the same thing.