A COUNCIL tax rise of 5.8% has been approved by Gwynedd council.

A full meeting rubber-stamped the proposed budget for 2019/20, which will see Band D ratepayers from Abergwyngregyn to Aberdyfi pay an extra £75.69 a year – or £1.46 a week.

As a result, the average Band D council tax bill will increase to £1,376.22 from April.

In what has become a common cry from Welsh local authorities, the need to rise the council tax was blamed on a reduction of 0.2% in central government contributions, with Gwynedd also being hit by additional inflation and staff wage costs.

In total, the authority had to fill a £13m deficit, with the council tax rise expected to bring in an extra £4.13m and the remaining gap to be filled thanks to savings and “back office” efficiencies.

The authority has been hit by inflation and the UK Government’s decision to increase the employers’ teacher pension contributions, with officers still unsure if the Westminster Government will fund the increased cost.

Using the authority’s balances to reduce any council tax rises has also been ruled out, with finance officers of the opinion it should not be allowed to drop below the present level.

“This has been a difficult budget but, in our view, is one that supports our most vulnerable residents,” said outgoing finance portfolio holder Cllr Peredur Jenkins, who accepted that Gwynedd’s average income was among the lowest in the UK.

“We only have two real income streams, the Welsh Government settlement and the council tax.

“The Welsh Government has decided to prioritise health spending over local government, but this has quite an impact on the services we offer our residents.”

While a 5.5% rise had initially been proposed, the cabinet decided to rise it to 5.8% to save some of the most unpopular cuts, including a 20% cut to the women’s aid budget and reducing the council’s contribution to the Youth Justice Service by 7%.

Other services protected by the move include the schools library service, replacement bins and free Christmas parking.

Cllr Catrin Wager said she would back the budget “with a heavy heart”, but condemned governments in Cardiff and London for leaving councils in such a position.

She reiterated that there was help for those struggling to pay their council tax.

Labour’s Sion Jones added that the police and fire services, as well as town and community councils, were also hiking their own precepts, calling for major change in taxation to allow “proper funding” for Welsh local government.

He added his support for the merging of Gwynedd council with Anglesey and possibly Conwy in a bid to make savings.

Cllr Seimon Glyn went further, warning: “If things continue as they are, all councils will end up bankrupt.

“Something has to happen but we need to knock heads together as we can’t carry on like this. There’s nothing left to cut.

“We may need to come together as councils to find a new way forward.”

Alwyn Gruffydd of Llais Gwynedd described it as a “no win situation” with people depending on food banks to survive.

“I don’t have the answer either, but we’re all in agreement that our backs are against the wall and have no choice but to support this balanced budget.”

The 2019/20 budget proposals were passed by 55 votes to 13 with one abstention.