SCHOOLS would get the same amount of money in real terms in 2021-22 as they do this year and an extra £1 million would go to support businesses if Carmarthenshire Council’s budget is approved, while council tax would be 4.48 per cent higher.

Executive board members have agreed a raft of proposals, including the deferral of almost half of previously agreed savings, which will now go out for consultation.

The proposed council tax rise was meant to be 4.89 per cent, but it is now 4.48 per cent following an amendment by council leader Emlyn Dole at a meeting on January 18.

This reduction was what residents “rightly deserve”, said Cllr Dole, given the disruption of the coronavirus crisis.

Colleagues approved the amendment, which will now be factored into budget-planning work before full council meets to set the budget in early March.

“It’s almost been a whole year of suffering for people across the county,” said executive board member for housing, Cllr Linda Evans.

The council is in line for a 3.8 per cent increase in funding it receives from the Welsh Government for core services, taking the figure to £284.8 million.

The authority expects to pull in more than £100 million through council tax, which together with the Welsh Government money will finance £387.3 million of day-to-day running costs for key departments like education, social care and waste collection in 2021-22.

Facing various cost pressures, the Plaid Cymru-Independent authority had planned to make £5.9 million of savings, but the figure is now £2.5 million with the £3.4 million difference deferred.

Savings measures for 2021-22 include cuts to road gulley cleaning, reducing residential care placements where appropriate, and reducing the number of domiciliary care visits carried out by two carers to one carer.

Extra income is proposed by doubling the cost of council “superloos” from 20p to 40p, and from recovery costs secured by the financial investigation unit, among other measures.

Executive board members have also proposed a £1.5 million Brexit and coronavirus contingency fund, a third of which will be for social care because of concerns about workforce recruitment now that the UK has left the European Union.

An extra £1 million is also proposed to support local businesses recover from the pandemic.

Introducing the report, Cllr David Jenkins, executive board member for resources, said the “scale of uncertainty” was currently “so vast”, with scientists warning that Covid restrictions could be in place up to next winter.

The council expects the combination of additional expenditure and income loss due to Covid will have a £30 million impact on the current year’s budget, but based on evidence to date the overwhelming majority of this should be recouped from the Welsh Government.

Other considerations for 2021-22 include the UK Government’s announcement of a pay freeze for public sector workers excluding the NHS, but with at least £250 extra for anyone earning below £24,000.

A report before the executive board said the lack of further detail on this £250 bonus made it “impossible to accurately estimate the cost” – and the budget has factored in a 2.75 per cent pay rise for all council staff in case the situation changes.

The proposed 4.48per cent council tax rise has been branded “a slap in the face” for residents by opposition leader, Cllr Rob James.

The Carmarthenshire Labour leader also claimed that money had been saved due to the closure of various council services since the pandemic started.

“We will be campaigning with every fibre of our being to get this disgraceful inflation-busting tax rise proposed by Plaid Cymru councillors thrown out,” he said.

Plaid leader Cllr Dole said Cllr James ought to have attended the virtual meeting in his role as opposition leader to ask questions.

Cllr Dole added: “Keeping the tax rise to less than 4.5 per cent is quite an achievement. It’ll be interesting to see how many Labour-led councils manage that.”