PEMBROKESHIRE’S cabinet has given its seal of approval to a draft budget - including a 10 per cent council tax rise – attempting to overcome a £19million funding gap for 2019-20.

Residents face council tax rises and the threat of redundancy hangs over teachers as pressures on the county council’s budget mount.

These include a reduction in local government settlement from Welsh Government, an increase in teacher pay and pensions, providing care for customers of collapsed company Allied Healthcare and out of county care placement pressures.

The council awaits a final decision on its settlement from Cardiff Bay along with the final word on whether there will be funding available for an increase in pension rates from 16 per cent to 23 per cent at a cost of £0.8million.

“The council will aim to bridge the £19.6m projected funding gap for 2019-20 and the £57.3m projected funding gap for the MTFP 2019-20 to 2022-23 by a combination of additional income generated from an increase in council tax and the identification and achievement of cost reductions/efficiencies,” cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister said on Monday (December 3).

A council tax rise of 10 per cent – £98.28 a year or £1.98 a week for a band D property – was chosen following discussion of five options including a worse-case scenario of 28 per cent.

Members were reminded that it was only in the last two years that a draft budget had been prepared for discussion and scrutiny with the “window to complete it very small.”

Around £15.5million cost reductions and efficiencies had already been identified, said Cllr Kilmister, who added that a contingency of around £1million was recommended to cover “unknown financial pressures.”

This was to “cover what we don’t know, not what is already in the budget,” he added.

Schools and social services have to “flat line” their budget while all other departments must make an eight per cent cut to their “controllable budgets.”

Cabinet agreed recommendations that the draft budget be approved, prior to full council consideration, and a preferred option council tax rise of 10 per cent, with further increases of £92 a year in 2020-21, £94 in 2021-22 and £98 in 2023-24 proposed.

The draft will go to full council on December 13 and will also be considered by all overview and scrutiny committees in the coming weeks.

The financial budget decisions will be taken in February next year, following a public consultation starting on December 17 until January 20.