Connect with us


Independent Group opposed to ‘unprecedented’ Council Tax hike



CABINET proposals recommending a significant increase in Council Tax rates by 16.31% for the fiscal year 2024/25 AND the following three years have been met with stern opposition by Independent Group of councillors, The Herald has learned.

The proposed year-or-year hikes, aimed at addressing the financial challenges faced by the cash-strapped County Council has sparked a wave of concern amongst many families who are already facing the cost-of-living crisis.

Councillor Andrew Edwards said: “The proposed increase in council tax stands as an unjust burden on the citizens of Pembrokeshire, particularly during a period marked by an escalating cost of living crisis and the onset of a confirmed recession.

“Despite a fall in inflation, the decision by the current administration to implement a significant tax hike seems not only disproportionate but also detrimental to the financial stability of our community.

“Such an increase is far from being just or sustainable, placing an undue strain on households already navigating the challenges of tightened budgets and economic uncertainty. Our communities deserve a lot better.”

Councillor Huw Murphy, representing the Independent Group, is completely against the proposed large hikes, highlighting the disproportionate burden it would place on Pembrokeshire’s residents compared to other Welsh counties.

Cllr Huw Murphy

According to the proposal detailed in the “Notice of the Meeting of Cabinet” published last week (Feb 13), a Band D property’s Council Tax would increase by £4.20 per week or £219.02 per annum, amounting to a 16.31% hike annually until 2027. This stark increase is a departure from last year’s indication of a manageable 7.5% rise over the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).

The implications of adopting such a recommendation are profound, with a Band D property owner in Pembrokeshire facing an increase of £930.68 by 2027/28 compared to a scenario where Council Tax rises by just 7.5% annually. Cllr. Murphy has criticised the Cabinet’s rationale, citing a lack of evidence to justify such an “extraordinary amount” and points out the potential for Pembrokeshire to become the highest Council Tax authority in Wales, surpassing even Blaenau Gwent, currently holding that title.

The financial strain is attributed mainly to the Social Services Department’s increasing costs for ‘Out of County’ placements. However, Cllr Murphy told The Herald that most other departments are operating within budget, many even presenting a surplus. The stark contrast in proposed tax increases across Wales further fuels the debate, with Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, and Swansea proposing much lower increases, casting Pembrokeshire’s approach as exceptionally burdensome and potentially unfair to its residents.

Cllr Murphy says there is a broader concern regarding the impact of such increases on local households, potentially driving working families and pensioners into poverty.

The proposed tax rise starkly contrasts with the current inflation rate and projected pay increases, raising questions about the council’s consideration for the economic realities faced by its residents and the potential adverse effects on the county’s ability to attract and retain essential workers, including teachers.

The Independent Group has proposed amendments to the budget in hopes of mitigating the impact on residents but finds the reduction offered insufficient to address community concerns.

In a letter to Cllr Alec Cormack, the Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance for Pembrokeshire County Council, Cllr Huw Murphy said that there is no justification to support an annual Council Tax rise of 16.31% up to and including 2027.

He explained the matter had already resulted in fear and desperation entering many households and will drive many working families and pensioners on fixed incomes into poverty.

He wrote: “I am informed there appears to be no likely easing of pressure on PCC in respect of funding ‘Out of County’ placements by Social Services, with the presumption this will continue rising exponentially until 2027/28? Homelessness was a topic of conversation twelve months ago. However, homelessness numbers have decreased by 24% between March and December 2023. Therefore, there will come a point when (no one knows when), ‘Out of County’ placements will plateau if not decrease.

He continued: “I would be grateful for a written response providing an explanation with supporting evidence as to the need for applying a 16.31% Council Tax increase for not only 2024/25 but also for the following 3 years (MTFP), moving away from the presumption of a 7.5% Council Tax for the MTFP as recommended on Feb 13, 2023.

“The Independent Group met the Director of Resources and proposed amendments to your budget on Feb 13, and aspects of our proposals were deemed appropriate to offer a lower Council Tax rate than 16.31%. We are grateful for the assistance provided to us at this time.

“However, the reduction offered was insufficient to allay community concerns and we withdrew our proposals, leaving your Cabinet recommendation as the only current option.”

Cllr Murphy continued: “The need to consider imposing a higher than 7.5% Council Tax for 2024/25 will be debated and voted upon on March 7. However, I currently see no justification to ALSO recommend a 16.31% Council Tax rise for the following 3 years.  If we go down this path I foresee significant community tension and disengagement between residents and PCC and a brief glance at social media over the last week will confirm this. 

“There is huge concern by a majority of Councillors across the whole chamber with regards to the proposed 16.31% rise in Council Tax for 2024/25 and I am gravely concerned at your desire to now factor in an annual 16.31% Council Tax rise into the MTFP (until 2027).”There is huge concern by a majority of Councillors across the whole chamber with regards to the proposed 16.31% rise in Council Tax for 2024/25 and I am gravely concerned at your desire to now factor in an annual 16.31% Council Tax rise into the MTFP (until 2027).

“I do not want to see this authority reject a budget and the consequences this will bring upon Officers and ourselves.

“However, in life we sometimes have to make decisions that appear controversial, possibly unthinkable but if done in the best interests of our residents then that is what has to be done, and your recommended Council Tax rise of 16.31% is taking us to this point. Through many recent conversations it’s clear your Council Tax  proposals needs to be reduced by a significant percentage to have the support of Council on March 7th, 2024.

“Therefore, should Council fail to agree a budget on March 7th, 2024 through the the loyalty of the majority of Councillors to the people of Pembrokeshire in defending them from an unaffordable Council Tax rise; then you as Cabinet lead for Finance, along with the Leader and other Cabinet members must bear full responsibility and with it the consequences as all Cabinet members voted for a 16.31% Council Tax rise in 2024/25 and the recommendation of an annual 16.31% Council Tax rise into the MTFP. 

“Independent Group Councillors we are willing to work with Councillors across the Chamber to achieve the goal of protecting residents of all ages, be they rural or urban from the impact of your current proposals which will have far reaching and negative consequences if passed on March 7th”, Cllr Murphy added.

The Herald understands that the recommended 16.3% increase is for the tax year 2024-25 and not for future years.

This is at odds with the IPG’s letter.

Any Council Tax increases for future years were not, as The Herald understands, discussed at Cabinet.

Currently, the finance team and Pembrokeshire County Council is predicting increases of 7.5% from 2025-26 onwards continuing up to 2027-28.

However, this could be subject to change – of course.


Cornerstone 4G phone mast unconditionally backed



A NEAR 70-foot-high 4G telecommunications tower scheme in north Pembrokeshire has been unconditionally backed by county planners.

Applicant Cornerstone sought what – in planning terms – is called prior approval for the installation of a 21-metre lattice tower supporting three antennas and associated works on land at Castle Farm Villa, Llanreithan, Hayscastle.

A report for planners says the radio base station “would allow a shared rural network in this rural area of Hayscastle for two of the main operators, to provide 4G connection, which would provide a reliable and fast communications services; to facilitate significantly improved connectivity for residents, businesses and visitors to locality.”

The application was supported by local community council Brawdy.

Cornerstone, in a supporting statement, says: “To keep up with growing demand from mobile phone users we need to upgrade existing base stations or build new base stations. An upgrade can be done in a number of ways, often by redeveloping the site to enable an increase in the number of technologies, or increasing the number or height of the antennas. However, even after these upgrades, in some busy areas the demand for services can still exceed the capability of the local base stations.”

It adds: “We recognise that the growth in mobile communication has led, in some cases, to public concern about perceived health effects of mobile technology, in particular about siting masts close to local communities.

“Quite naturally, the public seeks reassurance that masts are not in any way harmful or dangerous.   We are committed to providing the latest independent peer-reviewed research findings, information, advice and guidance from national and international agencies on radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic fields.

“Cornerstone ensure that our radio base stations are designed and built so that the public are not exposed to radio frequency fields above the guidelines set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP).  In fact, radio base stations operate at low power and emit levels of radiofrequency fields many times lower than the ICNIRP general public guidelines.”

An officer report says a site visit was carried out to assess the impact of the proposed development, considering that the siting and design of the mast and associated structures would be acceptable.

“As such, the prior approval of the local planning authority is not required,” the report concluded.

Recent plans by Cornerstone for a 20-metre-high, timber-clad telecoms tower on land opposite the National Trust car park at Trehilyn West, Trefasser, near Goodwick, were turned down by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park planners.

Continue Reading


Pembrokeshire stands against Israeli apartheid and Genocide



PALESTINE solidarity groups in Pembrokeshire and West Wales are mobilising for a powerful protest in Haverfordwest, Castle Square, this Saturday 20th April at 2pm. They aim to vehemently condemn the relentless Israeli onslaught on Gaza and send a clear message to the UK government and local MPs Simon Hart and Stephen Crabb: End the complicity now! We demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms sales that fuel this brutal oppression.

The Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, refers to the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli forces, following the forcible displacement of 750,000 Palestinians (almost half the population) in 1947-49 in order to establish the state of Israel. Israel’s current assault on Gaza is an escalation of the ongoing Nakba and threatens to be the largest mass expulsion of Palestinians since 1948. The international community has an immediate responsibility to intervene to stop Israel’s ethnic cleansing today. Any delay in implementing practical measures constitutes complicity and/or participation in the ongoing Nakba.

This rally is a collective outcry against the crimes perpetrated by Israel and a rallying cry for the boycott of Israeli products.

“It’s sickeningly hypocritical that Israel strikes nations and communities first, claims victimhood when faced with resistance, and then receives unwavering support from the U.S., the UK, and Germany!” lamented one protester.

“For too long, the international community has turned a blind eye to Israel’s flagrant violations of human rights, granting it impunity while innocent lives are lost.”

“Six months of relentless violence. Six months of Israel slaughtering innocent Palestinians. Six months of Israel killing over 14,000 children! That’s an average of around 76 children a day and what has our government done? Profited from arms sales, turning a blind eye to the bloodshed,” remarked another protester.

This protest is a clarion call to all who stand for justice: It’s time to disrupt the status quo and challenge our complicit government. “We will never give up,” declared a participant. “To dismantle apartheid, we must disrupt the everyday and refuse to be complicit in Israel’s crimes against humanity!”

Join us at Castle Square at 2pm this Saturday to lend your voice to the 2 million people who suffer from a forced famine and brutal occupation in Gaza. Together, we will demand justice, accountability, and an immediate end to the bloodshed, the genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Continue Reading


Dragon LNG ‘monitoring’ scrap car blaze in Waterston



A BLAZE has broken out at the Waterston Car Dismantler’s business in Waterston, Milford Haven.

Dragon LNG which is situated near the site said that the fire was not related to their operation and confirmed that the that emergency services were at the scene.

Residents living nearby have been advised to keep windows and doors closed whilst the incident is being dealt with.

“We are aware of a fire in Waterston with the emergency services present,” said a spokesperson for Dragon LNG.

“The incident is not related to Dragon LNG and Dragon Energy. We are monitoring the situation and are co-ordinating with the emergency services.”

A spokesperson for Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service told The Herald: “At 11.09am on Monday, April 15th, the Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Narberth, Fishguard, Carmarthen, Tenby and Haverfordwest crews were called to an incident at a commercial premises in the Waterston Industrial Estate, Milford Haven.

“Crews responded to approximately 150 vehicles on fire, at the height of the incident, 12 fire appliances were in attendance.  Crews utilised six breathing apparatus sets, nine hose reel jets, two ground monitors and approximately 1,000 litres of foam to extinguish the fire.

“Properties in close proximity to the fire were evacuated and nearby roads were closed.  The incident required a multi-agency response, with Dyfed-Powys Police, the Ambulance Service and the Local Authority also in attendance.

“Crews began to leave the scene at 2.11pm.

“Please be advised that as a precaution:

“If you are in an area still affected by smoke, you are advised to stay indoors, close windows and doors, and turn off any air conditioning or ventilation units.

“Motorists who must travel through areas still affected by smoke should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep air vents closed.”

(Images: M Cavaney/Herald)

Continue Reading

News13 hours ago

Dragon LNG ‘monitoring’ scrap car blaze in Waterston

A BLAZE has broken out at the Waterston Car Dismantler’s business in Waterston, Milford Haven. Dragon LNG which is situated...

News3 days ago

Major search in the area of The Cleddau Bridge and Hobbs Point

A MULTI-AGENCY rescue response was initiated first thing on Saturday following reports of a person in difficulty in the area...

News4 days ago

Newgale pub fire: Cause undetermined, but ruled accidental

THE MID and West Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) has recently concluded its investigation into the fire that devastated the...

Sport4 days ago

Jasmine, Lleucu, Carys & Courtney: The Pride of Pembrokeshire

Four rugby players from Pembrokeshire are gearing up to take on Ireland in the Women’s Six Nations this weekend. Jasmine...

Crime5 days ago

Independent inquiry into child sex abuse commissioned by Caldey

WE have reported on this story for years, but in a very significant development this week, Caldey Island Abbey has...

Crime6 days ago

Mechanic lands four-figure fine after head-butting officer in Quins

A COURT has heard how a police officer was head-butted outside the Quins Rugby Club in Pembroke Dock by a man described...

Community6 days ago

29 homes planned for Pembrokeshire village development

A scheme for 29 houses, including two affordable units, in the north Pembrokeshire village of St Dogmaels, close to the...

Crime6 days ago

Former Pemb Dock mayor accused of making child abuse images

FORMER Pembroke Dock mayor Terry Judkins has appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates charged with making 52 Category A images of a...

News1 week ago

Port of Milford Haven continues to invest with £40m funding from HSBC

THE Port of Milford Haven is making a series of strategic investments to strengthen its position as the UK’s largest...

Business1 week ago

National Resources Wales to check Withyhedge Landfill enforcement compliance

IN FEBRUARY, NRW served a Regulation 36 Enforcement Notice on RML, the operator of Withyhedge Landfill requiring them to complete...

Popular This Week