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Services cut by £45m as Cardiff's council tax rises

Protesters outside City Hall

Protesters outside City Hall

Cardiff residents face a £45 million cut to services, an average rise in their Council Tax bill of £46 and more than 600 council jobs will go after Cardiff Council last night voted to pass Labour’s budget.

The budget was backed by 43 councillors, with 22 voting against and four abstaining after a three hour debate in City Hall, during which a member of the public was ejected from the public gallery for heckling Labour speakers.

As well as the 613 council workers who will lose their jobs, hundreds more will have their working week cut from 37 to 36 hours, costing them the equivalent of a week’s pay a year.

Cuts to the subsidies of St David’s Hall and the New Theatre will also go ahead and the price of meals of wheels will rise by 25 per cent to £3.50 a meal.

Play centres have been given a year’s reprieve after a public consultation, but their opening hours will be cut.

Though Labour say school budgets have been safeguarded, Julia Magill, cabinet member for education, warned changes to the pupil deprivation grant meant schools in the south of the city will fare better than those in the north.

“Some  schools in the north of the city may suffer a real terms cut in resources,” she told councillors.

The Council Tax rise, which means residents in the average band D property will pay £1,164.11 for 2014/15, prompted the Liberal Democrat opposition to claim Labour had reneged on a key election promise.

Labour say their pledge to cap any Council Tax rise at two per cent, made in April 2012, was based on “all things being equal”.

Lib Dem Councillor Elizabeth Clark said Labour had “wriggled out” of the promise with its wording, which she argued had not appeared on election literature.

Speaking after the meeting, Russell Goodway, cabinet member for finance and economic development, said a huge cut to the council’s funding from Westminster Government had forced their hand. He also said the reduction in working hours safeguarded 200 jobs.

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“Had things remained unchanged we would have been able to achieve that, but they didn’t, they changed massively,” he said.

He also said the budget consultations showed residents would prefer a Council Tax rise to further cuts.

“We’ve looked at the implications of it [the Council Tax rise], we didn’t just do this lightly. We said ‘well can we maintain Council Tax increase of two per cent? But what are the consequences of doing that?’ And the consequences of doing that are too high a price to pay.

“We believe that the strength of opinion in support of maintaining services outweighed the strength of opinion to maintain council tax below two per cent.”

When Cardiff residents were consulted on the budget earlier this month, 51 per cent of respondents were against a rise in Council Tax, while 37 per cent supported it.

The Liberal Democrats did not table an alternative budget, with Councillor Gareth Aubrey blaming a lack of information from Labour.

“It’s not our job to pluck alternatives out of thin air,” he said.

The Conservatives also failed to table amendments to the budget, but Councillor David Walker told the Labour cabinet it was time to stop departments from overspending.

“Your Labour tax and spend policy just won’t cut it this time,” he said.

The council’s Independent Group proposed to freeze Council Tax in their alternative, introduced by Rhiwbina councillor Adrian Robson, though they called for an additional £1.7m of cuts.

Much of their savings would have been achieved by reducing the Labour group’s planned £4m contingency fund, but they lost a vote on the amendment.

Plaid Cymru’s amendments, which would have kept the Council Tax rise at 3.97 per cent but cut executive salaries rather than make £1.6m of cuts, were also defeated.

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