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Council Tax reform update: Slower pace favoured

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THE Welsh Government has provided an important update on council tax reform, sharing the outcomes of the recent Phase 2 consultation and outlining plans to make the system fairer and more contemporary.

In a written statement, Rebecca Evans, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution, and the Cabinet Office, emphasised the Government’s commitment to a fair council tax system. “Our goal is to create a system that is fair in operation and fair in implementation,” she stated.

Plaid Cymru was commended for its collaboration on this initiative, reflecting a shared determination to reform council tax. Local government partners were also acknowledged for their engagement, which is vital for developing solutions that balance protecting services and managing significant pressures.

The Phase 2 consultation received 1,676 responses from the public and expert organisations. An impressive 67% of respondents supported some form of change, with the greatest support (32%) for minimal reforms. A significant group (23%) preferred more extensive reforms.

Regarding implementation pace, the majority of respondents (35%) favoured a slower timeline, starting in 2028. Only 24% preferred the fastest timetable (2025), and 17% supported staged implementation.

“Having listened carefully to the consultation responses and the broader public conversation, I intend to deliver council tax reform over a slower timeline in line with the majority view,” Evans said. Consequently, structural reforms to the council tax system will begin in 2028, with other improvements targeted for delivery by the end of the current Senedd term.

The Welsh Government is also planning for regular revaluation cycles, as outlined in the Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill, which is under Senedd scrutiny. An amendment will introduce five-yearly revaluations from 2028 to keep council tax fair and responsive to economic changes.

Evans highlighted the excellent progress made on revaluation. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has developed new technology to provide comprehensive property value data, advancing the path to 2028 implementation.

Additionally, regulations to improve the appeals process and aid households in arrears will be in place by the end of the Senedd term. The goal is to make the appeals process more streamlined and effective, ensuring fair treatment for struggling households while maintaining contributions from those who can afford to pay.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ significant contribution was acknowledged, with its report providing an in-depth assessment of reform possibilities. The Welsh Government will continue working with the VOA, local government, and the public to design and implement a fairer council tax system.

The Local Government Finance (Wales) Bill will also provide additional flexibility on discounts and reductions, ensuring they remain effective. Currently, nearly half of Welsh households benefit from reduced council tax bills, with essential support provided to low-income households through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. The Government is consulting on measures to simplify access to this scheme and will retain the one-adult discount, reducing council tax for half a million households.

Finally, efforts are underway to improve public awareness of council tax, highlighting its role in funding essential services such as education, social care, housing, and policing.

Council tax remains a crucial part of funding local government in Wales, benefiting almost everyone. However, ensuring fair and accurate collection is essential, especially given the current financial pressures on households.

The Welsh Government is dedicated to protecting local services amid budget constraints while working towards a fairer council tax system. This commitment reflects the Government’s aim to create arrangements that are just in both operation and implementation.

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Community

Castle Square Bike Night raises funds for Blood Bikes Wales

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HAVERFORDWEST was abuzz with excitement recently as Castle Square hosted its much-anticipated Bike Night. The event, held on Wednesday, 22nd May, saw an impressive turnout of motorcycle enthusiasts from across the region, all gathering for a worthy cause.

Castle Square Bike Night, which began at 6:30 PM, transformed the heart of Haverfordwest. The event aimed to bring together bikers of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate their shared passion for motorcycles while supporting Blood Bikes Wales, a charity dedicated to providing free, out-of-hours transport of essential medical items to NHS facilities across Wales.

The square was a sea of colour and chrome, with bikes of all makes and models on the town square. From sleek sports bikes to vintage classics, the variety on display was a testament to the diverse biking community in Pembrokeshire. Riders and spectators alike admired the impressive machines, swapped stories, and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Donations were collected throughout the evening, with all proceeds going directly to Blood Bikes Wales.

The charity relies entirely on volunteers and donations to operate, and events like these are crucial in ensuring they can continue their vital service. “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported us tonight,” said a representative from Blood Bikes Wales. “The generosity of the biking community is truly heartwarming, and it makes a significant difference in our ability to provide life-saving services.”

As the evening drew to a close, the success of Castle Square Bike Night was evident in the smiling faces and the positive feedback from attendees. The event not only celebrated the love of motorcycles but also highlighted the power of community action in supporting charitable causes.

Castle Square Bike Night has firmly established itself as a key event in the Haverfordwest calendar, and the organisers are already looking forward to the next gathering. With its combination of passion, community spirit, and charitable giving, it is sure to remain a highlight for years to come.

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Pembrokeshire farm tent camping site plans backed

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Plans to expand a tent site at a Pembrokeshire farm which has diversified into tourism since the 1980s have been backed by councillors.

In an application before Pembrokeshire County Council’s May meeting of its planning committee, Mr and Mrs James sought permission to expand a tent site at South Cockett Caravan and Tent Site, Broadway, Broadhaven.

The application included a number of enhancements which would improve its visual appearance.

The Council Landscape Officer has raised no objection, advising that the additional hedgebank is to be encouraged.

Speaking at the meeting, agent Andrew Vaughan-Harris said three generations of the James family had been farming some 140 acres, in a mix of sheep, beef and cattle, and now had 70 touring caravan pitches on-site after diversifying in the 1980s.

“It’s a good news story over the last 30 years, it’s now up to 50 per cent of their income,” he told planners, adding the applicants had invested £180,000 on-site in the last couple of years.

“They still want to have a site for tents, now we have the application in front of us for a further field,” he added.

He finished: “This is helping sustainable farming; it is creating jobs.”

Members of the committee unanimously backed a recommendation to approve the scheme.

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General Election: Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion hopefuls for new seats

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WITH a July 4 date announced for the General Election, confirmed candidates for the two new seats in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion will be gearing up their campaigns.

As part of constituency changes, Pembrokeshire’s current seats of Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire have changed.

As part of the changes, parts of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids – are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency, which will replace the Pembrokeshire parts of the current Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

The north of the county will be part of a new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joining parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with Ceredigion.

Current hopefuls for the Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat are Welsh Liberal Democrat Alistair Cameron, with Stephen Crabb for the Conservatives and Henry Tufnell for Labour.

Candidates confirmed to date in the neighbouring constituency of Ceredigion Preseli are Ben Lake for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, a former MP for Ceredigion, and Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones, and  Conservative candidate Aled Thomas.

The constituancy changes follow a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32; each constituency  must contain between 69,724 and 77,062 voters, with the exception of Ynys Mon.

The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency has a road distance of nearly 75 miles from the extreme north to southwest of the new constituency.

The Boundary Commission for Wales made minor changes to previous proposals, removing St Davids, Solva and Letterston from the proposed Ceredigion Preseli constituency and including the Maenclochog ward instead.

Mid and south Pembrokeshire, under the changes, will have the largest number of electors of any of the constituencies in Wales, at 76,820.

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