Council Tax 2019/20 - Frequently Asked Questions

The budget, your Council Tax and local services

The budget, your Council Tax and local services FAQs

1. Why is there a gap in the budget and where does it come from?

The biggest part of the funding we receive (65%) comes from Welsh Government (WG) in the form of a grant.  Over past years the amount of money we have received from Welsh Government has been reducing.   For every 1% in the reduction of our grant from Welsh Government the Council loses £1.9m*.  In addition to losing money we have had to find money from within our existing resources to pay for things like:

  • workforcepay increases - agreed nationally
  • rising costs of energy, food, fuel and other services
  • the costs of new nationally agreed employer taxes such as the Apprentice Tax Levy
  • the costs attached to new legislation such as entitlement to social services
  • the rising costs of social care
On top of this, where we have dipped into our reserves or savings to balance budgets - a gap is immediately created in the budget the year after - as reserves can only be spent once and are not available to spend again to plug the gap. 

*based on 2018/19 funding levels 

2. What is the financial value of the pressures facing the Council for 2019/20?

 Cost pressures Eng 

3. Are all Councils struggling to balance the books or is it just Flintshire?

Councils across Wales and England are speaking out about the risks and impacts of under-funding after many years of austerity. It is not only Flintshire County Council.

For close to a decade now every council in the UK has been managing the consequences of year on year reductions in Government funding.

Each year through innovation, forward thinking and tight ‘house-keeping’ the Council has just about managed to ‘balance the books’.   Every year it’s becoming harder and harder, with fewer options left to make more savings whilst at the same time protecting services.

4. Does Welsh Government give each Council the same amount to fund services?

The amount of money Flintshire receives from Welsh Government is based on something called the Local Government Funding Formula. The Government allocates a proportion of its overall budget to the local government ‘family’ and this is then distributed to all 22 councils in ‘shares’. The Formula makes a theoretical comparative judgement on what each council needs according to its population size, its wealth and poverty, and its rurality.

Flintshire is the sixth largest County in Wales by size of population.  However, under the Funding Formula, Flintshire is a low funded Council per head of population.  The way the Welsh Government grant is calculated, we are positioned 19 out of 22 Councils in Wales for the amount of money we receive per head of population - £134 per person lower than the Welsh average. If Flintshire were to receive the Welsh average we would be around £20.5m better off financially. This would take the pressure off Council Tax.  

5. What steps has the Council taken in recent years to balance its books?

Over the last 11 years, Flintshire County Council has cut back on its spending by £85m.

We've achieved this massive target by doing things like:

  • reduction in senior management posts and their support by more than 50%
  • not filling some senior management posts when they become vacant
  • reducing middle management posts
  • administration / clerical posts and costs reduced by 40%
  • implementing nationally agreed pay ‘freezes’
  • a major voluntary redundancy programme
  • agreeing new terms and conditions of employment which reduce costs such as overtime for out of hours working
  • reducing all service budgets (except Schools and Social Services) by 30% -  some even as far as 45%
  • office accommodation reduced by 20%
  • disposal of two large office buildings
  • two of the four office blocks at County Hall now empty and set for demolition 
  • merging six depots into one new and more efficient facility at Alltami
  • sharing buildings with partners such as North Wales Police in Holywell and Flint
  • saving money in the way we buy and operate Council vehicles
  • changing the way we provide services:
    • Aura Leisure and Libraries, a new company created and run by former Council employees
    • NEWydd - a wholly Council owned trading company providing cleaning and catering services
  • working with local communities where there has been interest to take on and run local services:
    • Cambrian Aquatics at Connah's Quay Swimming Pool 
    • Holywell Leisure Centre
  • Reducing the subsidy to Theatr Clwyd by 40% under a new business plan
  • NEW Homes - a wholly Council owned trading company providing homes for local people
  • SHARP (Strategic Housing and Regeneration Programme) building new Council and affordable homes
  • Double Click - a new social enterprise providing social services for adults with mental health issues and learning difficulties
  • integrating services with other councils in the region to share costs e.g. education
  • procuring or bulk buying with other councils to get better deals e.g. computer hardware   

6. Why can't the Council use up the money it has in reserves to help balance the books?

The Council holds back reserves – rather like savings – to cover itself against unexpected costs and emergencies.  In recent years we have made use of our reserves to contribute to the annual budget setting to help to reduce the gap and balance the budget.

Compared to many councils Flintshire has modest and limited reserves to call upon.  Our reserves are reviewed every quarter to ensure they are still needed.  The Council has some reserves that are held for specific purposes e.g. school balances and some usable reserves that can be drawn upon.

Over the last three years the Council has used £6.2m from its reserves, and in 2018/19 used £1.945m to help to balance the budget with an additional £460,000 being given to schools to assist with their in year pressures. 

Reserves can only be used once and the amount we hold is reducing.

For 2019/20 we have set aside a further £2.2m to help to bridge our funding gap - the use of reserves is not a sustainable solution in the longer term. 

The Council could be exposed to a number of significant risks in the coming year which could result in additional cost pressures so it is important that we hold back some reserves as an in year “buffer” to meet them.  These risks include the rising social care costs for children and adults, and uncertainty from national market conditions due to the UK-European negotiations with risks to inflation levels for goods including food and fuel.  

7. A large amount of the Council’s budget is spent on Corporate Costs with £13.5m spent within the Corporate Loans and Investment Account (CLIA) – how is this made up and why is it such a large amount?

The Corporate Loans and Investment Account brings together all of the income and expenditure from our borrowing and investment activities.

The Account is made up of the following:

External interest payable.

The Council has had to borrow money to pay for some of its past capital expenditure where it has been decided to invest in our assets such as schools, roads and care homes.  

We are often asked why we cannot pay off old debt to take out new loans at a cheaper rate.  This is looked at as part of the Council’s annual Treasury Management Policy.  It would often cost more to do this as early repayment charges apply - rather like a household paying off a loan or mortgage early.  Also, the Council does not have the surplus funds to do this.   Any capital receipts - money from selling an asset - which the Council receives (which may be used to repay debt) are instead used to fund the current capital programme. The Council is exhausting assets it has to sell.

Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP)

Local Authorities are required each year to set aside some of their revenue resources as provision for the repayment of debt.  The Regulations require authorities to each year make an amount of Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) to do this. 

Over the past couple of years the Council has reviewed its MRP policy and as a result has been able to release a revenue efficiency.  However, whilst this is a cheaper form of repayment in the earlier years it will be more expensive in later years.

Debt Management Charges

This is the cost of managing the Council’s Treasury Management Function.

Interest from temporary investments

This is interest received from short term investments placed when the Council has surplus funds.

Other income

This is other income which we receive for loans and other arrangements for example the loan we have made to NEW Homes.  

8. How did Welsh Government think local councils would raise the extra money needed to bridge the gaps in their budgets?

The Council receives annual funding from Welsh Government in the form of Revenue Support Grant.

For 2019/20 Welsh Government has made a budget planning assumption that Council Tax will rise at an average of 6.5% across Wales.  There is no “cap” which restricts the level at which any council can set Council Tax.  Instead that decision is devolved to local authorities themselves.

At the final and closing stage of the budget process for 2019/20, having made £8.5m in efficiencies and income, the Council has to rely on a Council Tax to rise of 8.17% to meet its own expenditure requirements for 2019/20. 

The addition of the increase in the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority levy will bring the overall Council Tax increase up to 8.75%.  

9. In April 2018 Flintshire increased its Council Tax by 6.71% how was this justified?

The Council has a legal duty to set a balanced annual budget – in other words the Council has to be certain that it will have enough money to spend for everything it needs in the year ahead.  The annual budget is set in March each year. 

Year on year councils like Flintshire have faced reductions in the money received by Government.    The costs of supplies such as energy and fuel for buildings and vehicles are rising.  Each year, more and more people need social services, which costs the Council more to deliver to a bigger client group.

To balance its budget the Council has had no choice but to look at raising more money by charging for local services and through Council Tax.

On top of this our schools are struggling to balance their budgets.  This is because of things like teachers’ pay increases, which are agreed nationally and which schools have to pay, and the rising costs of energy, supplies and equipment.   

The Council had not previously increased Council Tax by over 5%.  Given the pressures on our schools a 1.71% supplement on Council Tax was charged in April 2018 to raise an additional £1.14m for schools.

Even with this increase, the Council Tax residents in Flintshire pay is still around the average charged across Wales and is considerably lower than neighbouring English counties.

10. By how much will Council Tax in Flintshire go up in April 2019 and how is it justified?

Flintshire has had to increase Council Tax by 8.17% to bridge the gap between the funding it receives from Welsh Government and what it needs to pay to protect key local services for local people.

Welsh Government has been holding funds which it could pass to councils to ease the chronic financial situation.

In our recent #BacktheAsk campaign we asked Welsh Government for £5.6m more funding for Flintshire, something which we believe was possible and affordable.   At the time of campaigning, even if Welsh Government provided everything we asked for, a 7% Council Tax increase would still have been needed to balance the books.

Before the end of the year Welsh Government’s Cabinet and Ministers announced some specific additional funding to assist local councils.  This met our ‘asks in part:

  • An additional £14.2m investment into the Settlement for Welsh councils. This would mean a 0.3% cut in Flintshire’s funding rather than the 1% originally announced – for Flintshire the benefit will be £1.163m.
  • A further £7.5m towards the costs of the national teacher pay award – for Flintshire this is worth £375,000.
  • An allocation of £2.3m for Children’s Social Services which we estimate our benefit to be £110,000.
  • An extra £30m to be allocated to the region for Health and Social Care - £15m of which to be reserved for Children’s Social Services.  Confirmation of this funding is yet to be received but our estimate is that it could be worth £705,000 for Flintshire.
  • A further £30m for social care which is estimated will give Flintshire an extra £1.410m.

These announcements have been welcomed.  When put together the sum of this extra money is still not enough. We are still facing a budget gap of around £3.1m.

It is unreasonable for councils to be put in this position. Governments have a responsibility to properly fund councils to provide local services to meet the needs and entitlements of local communities.

Without any extra funding announcements from Welsh Government we have no option but to increase the Council's portion of Council Tax by 8.17%.  

11. Is this the full increase Council Tax Payers in Flintshire will face in April 2019?

The 8.17% increase will provide the money the Council needs to bridge the gap between the funding it receives from Welsh Government and the budget needed to protect key local services for local people.

On top of this a further 0.58% will have to be added to raise the £381,000 set for the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority. Council Tax from across the six counties of North Wales pays for the Fire and Rescue service under a system called the ‘levy’.  

You will also see an increase in your local Town or Community Council precept.   

The final part of your bill is the precept for the Police and Crime Commissioner to help fund North Wales Police.

The two tables below demonstrate the percentage and monetary increases which can be expected based on an average Band D property.

Analysis of Band D English

Band D Charges English.    

12. Does Flintshire charge a high Council Tax compared to other Welsh councils?

The Council Tax set by Flintshire County Council is not high compared to other Welsh Councils.

Band D 19 20 all Wales comparison chart

All Wales percentage increase comparison 19 20 Eng 700

13. Does Flintshire charge a high Council Tax compared to other English Councils?

The Council Tax set by Flintshire County Council is not high compared to other English Councils.

The 6.71% increase applied in April 2018 may have be higher than the ‘percentage’ increase applied by our neighbouring English councils.  In real terms, however, Flintshire’s local Band D charge of £1,177.60 was still £236 lower than the average Band D charge for council run services across our near neighbours of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Wirral, Halton, Knowsley and Shropshire.

English Council Tax Comparison

14. What does my Council Tax pay for?

Council Tax is a local tax collected by councils in Wales and is based on the value of domestic property as set by the Valuation Office Agency.

Your Council Tax bill is made up of three separate charges – the charge being made by Flintshire County Council (including Fire and Rescue), the charge for North Wales Police, and the charge for your local town or community council. 

Council Tax raises just 26% of the money the Council needs to pay for local services.  The biggest part of our income (65%) comes from Welsh Government in the form of a grant.  The remaining 9% comes from the fees we charge for some services.

The Council Tax we collect is not a direct bill for the individual services provided by the Council but is pooled together to help pay for all the services we deliver. 

Council Tax payers have to pay the amount of tax due for their property and cannot ask for a reduction or discount because they, or members of their family, are at a stage in their lives where they do not use some of the services provided by the Council.

Each year we provide a breakdown of where the Council's income comes from and how the money is spent.  Click here for more information.  

15. What do town and community councils do and why are they on my bill?

There are 34 town and community councils across Flintshire. They provide or maintain a range of local community services and amenities including village halls, playing fields and open spaces, public seats, bus shelters, street lighting and footpaths.  In some cases they can contribute to the running cost of larger local facilities such as leisure centres and libraries.

Your Town or Community Council gets most of its money from a share of the Council Tax paid by residents living within its boundary. This is known as a Council Tax ‘precept’ and is based on your property Valuation band.

The amount of ‘precept’ charged by your Town or Community Council is shown on your overall Council Tax bill.  Flintshire County Council collects all tax owed and then pays the Town or Community Council its share. 

Each year the County Council publishes a list of Town and Community Council precepts.  To see the list click here.

16. What does the Police and Crime Commissioner do and why is it on my bill?

It is the responsibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales to provide an efficient and effective police service for the North Wales area. This includes working with the Police and Crime Panel to set a budget for North Wales Police. The Government provides around 75% of the funding necessary to run Police services in North Wales. The rest is raised through Council Tax.    This is known as a Council Tax ‘precept’ and is based on your property Valuation band.

Flintshire, along with the other five councils in North Wales, is responsible for collecting Council Tax on behalf of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales. 

The amount of ‘precept’ charged by the Police and Crime Commissioner is shown on your overall Council Tax bill.  Flintshire County Council collects all tax owed and then pays the Police and Crime Commissioner its share. 

Each year the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales publishes budget information about the spending plans of North Wales Police.  Click here for more information.

17. Who pays for the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service?

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service protects residents, businesses and communities across the region through preventive and responsive services including home safety, fire prevention and extinguishment, and responding to road traffic collisions and other emergencies including severe weather.

Each year, the County Council has to pay into a combined fire service fund to meet the annual costs of the Fire and Rescue Service.  This is known as the annual Fire Service Levy. For 2018-19 the Council paid a levy of £7.4m.

Although there is no Council Tax ‘precept’ shown on your bill for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service - part of the Council Tax you pay helps the Council fund the fire and rescue service. 

The North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority provides prevention, protection and response services for the whole of North Wales. In setting its budget for 2019/20, North Wales Fire and Rescue service was was facing a potential £1.9m gap and a bigger contribution from all six North Wales councils would be needed to enable it to balance its books.  

During a public consultation during September and November 2018, people across North Wales agreed that county councils should be asked to pay more to bridge the gap, and that adding an additional contribution of £6 or £7 to household Council Tax bills would be acceptable to ensure that local fire and rescue services were not reduced.

For Flintshire this has now been confirmed as an increase of £381,000.  Based on an average Band D property, households in Flintshire will need to pay an extra 0.58% on top of the 8.17% increase needed to pay for Council services.

Click here for more information about North Wales Fire and Rescue and the role of the Fire Authority.  

18. Don’t you think household budgets are already stretched?

When deciding on the amount of grant to award to Councils for 2019/20, Welsh Government made an assumption that all councils across Wales would increase their part of Council Tax by 6.5%.  For an average Band D property in Flintshire, currently paying £1,177.60, the cost of this increase would be £1.47 per week. 

A 6.5% increase will not bridge our budget gap, so to protect local services and facilities we have no choice but to increase this by a further 1.67%.

We know that household budgets are tight but without any extra funding from Welsh Government there are no other options.

By contributing an extra 1.67% above the 6.5%, every household in Flintshire will be helping to protect key local services which otherwise are at risk of disappearing.  Things like:

  • Schools music service
  • Youth services
  • Countryside services
  • Libraries
  • Leisure Centres
  • Household Recycling Centres  

19. What can I do if I can't afford to pay Council Tax?

Council Tax payers on a low income and in receipt of welfare benefits including Universal Credit, may be entitled to some help towards paying Council Tax. This is called the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS). To see if you can get any help click here to use our benefits calculator.

If, having used the benefits calculator, you believe you may qualify, you can click here to submit an ‘on-line’ application for CTRS. 

To help Council Tax payers budget around monthly payments, the Council can also offer instalments over 12 months instead of 10, or as many months that remain in the year up to March 2019.   If you want to change your method of payment or set up payments over 12 months, you can get in touch with the Council Tax team.  Email:  local.taxation@flintshire.gov.uk  Tel. 01352 704848.

20. Am I being asked to pay more for less?

Council Tax payers are being asked to make a bigger financial contribution to protect local services and compensate for reductions in Government funding.

Flintshire has been successful in protecting and even growing some local services despite having to reduce the money it spends over many years of national austerity.

So, the answer is that you are paying more for the same. By contributing an extra 1.67% above the Welsh national average you are helping to support and protect key local services which otherwise could be at risk.

We would not recommend that funding be reduced or withdrawn from any of the services listed below, but if we did ....

 Service Risks 1 700

Risks 700

 

21. Will there be another big rise in Council Tax in April 2020?

The levels of Council Tax we need to set in future years - from 2019/20 onwards - will very much depend on:

  • the position UK Government decides to take on funding public services
  • how much of its overall budget Welsh Government decides to pass on to local councils
  • the decisions of central and Welsh governments to fully fund national agreements like Teachers’ pay and pensions

The more money local councils receive, the less likely it is we will see high rises in Council Tax.

Flintshire has not yet set Council Tax levels for 2020-21 onwards.

22. Are businesses having to pay more ‘rates’ or is it just home owners?

Business Rates is a national property based tax system.

Business Rates are collected by the Council, otherwise known as the billing authority, and then paid across to a national collection pool for Wales which is administered by Welsh Government. The Council receives a redistributed share of the Business Rates we collect.  Based on a formula set by Welsh Government called the Local Government Funding Formula we receive much less than we collect.

Business Rates are calculated by taking the Rateable Value of a property and multiplying it by the annual ‘rate multiplier’. Welsh Government sets the multiplier each year and this is fixed according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). 

In 2019/20, Business Rate bills will increase by 2.6% (the rate of CPI in September 2018).  As the Council collects Business Rates on behalf of Welsh Government, we cannot ask businesses to pay more rates in order to help fund local services.  

23. You must collect a lot of money in business rates why can’t you use that to fund some of the budget gap?

Business Rates are collected by the Council, otherwise known as the billing authority, and then paid across to a national collection pool for Wales which is administered by Welsh Government. The Council receives a redistributed share of the Business Rates we collect.  Based on a formula set by Welsh Government called the Local Government Funding Formula we receive much less than we collect.

The Government allocates a proportion of its overall budget to the local government ‘family’ and this is then distributed to all 22 councils in ‘shares’. The Formula makes a theoretical comparative judgement on what each council needs according to its population size, its wealth and poverty, and its rurality.

Flintshire is the sixth largest County in Wales by size of population.  However, under the Funding Formula, although Flintshire collected £65.8m in Business Rates during 2016-17 we only got back £45.8m as part of our redistributed share of Business Rates. This means that Flintshire is a ‘net loser’ by £20m as this is a redistributive system that benefits Welsh councils which are smaller and do not have a large business base.  

24. With the increasing number of homes in Flintshire we collect council tax from, and the extra revenue that must bring, surely the increase doesn’t have to be so big?

In Flintshire we have the highest number of homes across North Wales and the sixth highest across the whole of Wales.  The amount of Council Tax we can collect is also growing at a rate above the Welsh average - 0.7% compared to 0.5% - as a result of new homes being created.

This is good for Flintshire’s economy.  Businesses are able to access the range of skills they need locally, local people have access to local jobs and there is available housing for people coming into the area to work.

Whilst this brings financial challenges for Flintshire - more local people in need of our services e.g. schools, social care, leisure facilities, libraries, housing, etc. – the cost of this increased demand can be spread over a larger number of households helping to keep the cost down.  

25. Why doesn’t the Council chase those who don’t pay their council tax on time – surely that would help to fund some of the budget gap?

Figures published by the Welsh Government show that Flintshire County Council, with the support of local residents, is already one of the highest performing Council in Wales in its collection of Council Tax.

In the financial year 2017/18, the Council collected 98.2% of Council Tax in the year it fell due which is well above the national average collected across Wales in that year of (97.4%). This places placed Flintshire as the 2nd highest performing Council in Wales. This collection figure is also the highest collection level ever achieved by Flintshire in its history.

We are well on track with our assumptions that we will eventually collect at least 98.9% of council taxes that are due in any given year- this is well above the current Welsh collection average of 98.1%

We continue to work with residents by making it easier for residents to pay their bills and to access our services.

We do recognise that some households struggle to pay and would urge anyone who is finding it difficult to pay to always make early contact with the Council Tax Service on 01352 704848 or by visiting our website www.flintshire.gov.uk/counciltax.  

26. Why doesn't the Council ask central government for extra funding rather than putting up Council Tax?

For the past three years Flintshire has been openly saying that the ongoing national budget situation is not sustainable and that local services are under serious threat.

To combat more than a decade of year on year reductions in funding from Governments and our exposure to the effects of austerity as one of the lowest funded councils per head of population in Wales, Flintshire, as part of its #BacktheAsk campaign ‘asked’ Welsh Government for an additional £5.6m to help bridge the remaining £6.7m budget gap for 2019/20.

Before the end of the year Welsh Government’s Cabinet and Ministers announced some specific additional funding to assist local councils, some of which met our ‘asks’.

These announcements have been welcomed.  When put together the sum of this extra money is still not enough.   We are still facing a budget gap of around £3.1m. 

It is unreasonable for councils to be put in this position. Governments have a responsibility to properly fund councils to provide local services to meet the needs and entitlements of local communities.

Without any extra funding announcements from Welsh Government we have had no option but to increase Council Tax by 8.17%.

27. Why are you reviewing the transport arrangements for students over the age of 16?

Post 16 transport to college and schools and provision of free transport under the “benefits” criterion is a discretionary service.  Whilst we continue to face significant reductions in our funding, we are being faced with difficult decisions and so must consider different ways in which services are provided.

The discretionary entitlement to free transport under the “benefits” criterion has not been reviewed since 1996.  Flintshire is the only Welsh council to retain this particular entitlement.  In the current economic climate, we must consider other options.

No decisions will be made about Post 16 transport until after a full consultation process.  This will begin later this year.  If you want to have your say on this issue, please keep an eye on the Council’s website.

28. Why do you need to review Public Transport across Flintshire?

The Council has looked to support the core bus network through quality bus partnerships with commercial bus operators and the implementation of alternative, more sustainable local travel arrangements such as an interactive ‘ring-and-ride’ service (demand responsive), and scheduled community minibus services.  

This has included the withdrawal of high cost per passenger routes, optimisation of the current passenger transport network, the development of community minibus services, and use of smaller vehicles that are more suited to the nature of rural and less populated communities and demand for travel by public transport from these areas.

29. Why have you increased / introduced car parking charges?

Car parking charges in Flintshire are amongst the lowest in the country.

Every year the Council spends £900,000 running and maintaining its car parks.  The prices we have set are based on cost recovery for the service.

Our charges are still low compared to neighbouring and other councils and there are no plans to increase parking charges further in 2019/20.

30. Why am I charged Council Tax to help support services I don't use?

Your Council Tax contributes to the full range of services we provide, other than Council Housing which is paid for by Council tenants through their rent.

Council Tax payers have to pay the amount of tax due for their property and cannot ask for a reduction or discount because they, or members of their family, at at a stage in their lives where they do not use some of the services provided by the Council.   

Education and social care are examples of services which councils provide as an extension of the Welfare State.  We all make our contribution to funding them.

31. The Council has outsourced some services like libraries and leisure centres, so why are we still paying for them?

Over the past 11 years the Council has saved £85m whilst protecting, wherever possible, those services which residents and communities highly value.

One of the ways we have done this is through the creation of a brand new social enterprise, Aura Wales, to manage high quality and sustainable leisure, library and museum services.

By taking these services out of the direct management of the Council, we have taken an entrepreneurial approach that is responsive to the commercial demands of the market.

The Council continues to financially support these services by means of an annual grant, which will reduce over time as the company becomes more financially self-sufficient and through specific programmes of investment most recently £1.4m for Mold Leisure Centre.  This continued support is helping to keep leisure and library services open.   If the Council stopped or reduced the amount of support it provides services and facilities would have to close.

Aura Wales offers a full range of services.  Visit www.Aura.Wales to see the full range of membership options and special promotions on offer.

Your Council Tax contributes to the full range of services we provide, other than Council Housing which is paid for by Council tenants through their rent.

Council Tax payers have to pay the amount of tax due for their property and cannot ask for a reduction or discount because they, or members of their family, at at a stage in their lives where they do not use some of the services and facilities provided by the Council.

32. What do you mean by ‘savings’?

When we use the term ‘savings’, we are talking about the different ways of finding solutions to bridge the budget gap.   These can include things like:
  • being more efficient and 'saving' money
  • being more entrepreneurial in the way we do things
  • reducing the amount of money services are given to spend
  • increasing the amount of money we have to spend by charging for some services

By doing things differently we can 'save' the council money and keep services running. 

33. Why have you moved employees into the old Unilever offices in Ewloe, rather than selling the building?

In this challenging financial climate the Council has explored all options to make best use its office accommodate and make savings.  This has included the demolition and clearance of Council offices in Connah’s Quay; the merging of six depots into one central depot at Alltami; sharing buildings with partners such as North Wales Police and Job Centre Plus - at our Connects Centres at locations in Buckley, Connah’s Quay, Flint and Holywell.

County Hall is an ageing building which has for many years served its purpose but is now expensive to maintain. 

Two years ago 750 people were moved out of Phases 3 and 4 of County Hall (the back two sections of the building) and into Phases 1 and 2 at the front of the building (nearest to Mold) to make best use of the available space. This allowed us to close down Phases 3 and 4.  This has achieved a carbon reduction saving of 420 tonnes and an office floor area reduction of 43%.  Annual running costs have reduced from £1.7m to £1.2m.  Our plan for this year (2019) is to now demolish Phases 3 and 4.

Ty Dewi Sant in Ewloe - formerly known as Unity House and leased by the Council to Unilever - was put on the open market for sale shortly after Unilever left the premises to relocate to Port Sunlight.   During this period limited interest in its purchase was shown and the closure of the nearby HSBC offices, on the same business park, made it even more difficult to sell a large building in this location at a realistic price. 

Moving nearly 400 employees from County Hall, Mold to the Council’s refurbished Ty Dewi Sant building is a key part of the Council’s ongoing strategy to make best, most efficient, use of its office buildings.  The cost to the Council to get the building ready for occupation was £700,000.   As empty office space Ty Dewi Sant was costing the Council £700,000 every year, but now fully occupied, its running costs will be as low as £400,000 per year, although this won’t be an additional cost for Council as the savings made by closing Phases 3 and 4 at County Hall, will cover the running costs of Ty Dewi Sant. 

This carefully planned move has brought the building back into good use and provides a modern, cost-effective office space for our workforce.

34. If you are struggling to balance the books why have council employees just had a pay rise?

Over the past 11 years the Council has saved £85m.  Remodelling our workforce has significantly contributed to these savings.  

Like any business our workforce is our greatest asset and our biggest cost.  We currently employ 5950 people and our ‘wage bill’ for 2017/18 was £177.3m.

Compared with three years ago 1190 fewer people work for the Council.  Within this number we have safeguarded 673 jobs through the transfer of jobs to new business models such as Aura Leisure and Libraries and NEWydd Catering and Cleaning.  

We have reduced senior management by more than 50%, administrative and clerical posts and costs by 40%, agreed new terms and conditions of employment reducing things like overtime/out of hours working costs, and operate an ongoing voluntary redundancy programme.

Pay awards for council employees are negotiated and agreed nationally by UK Government.   In line with these national agreements the Council has over recent years implemented pay freezes as well as more recent pay increases. Whilst agreed nationally, governments provide no extra funding to meet the costs of higher ‘wage bills’.

The most recent pay award agreed nationally is payable over two years; the first part on 1 April 2018 and the second a year later on 1 April 2019.

35. How will the increase in employers pension contributions for teachers pensions affect the budget situation?

The Teachers’ Pension scheme along with other national public sector schemes is required to complete a valuation every four years to ensure that the cost of providing pensions in the long-term can be met.  The latest valuation will result in an increase of employers pension costs from 16.48% to 23.6% from September 2019.  The financial impact of this increase for Flintshire schools in 2019/20 is estimated to be £2.06m.

Although the Treasury has identified £4.7 billion to support employers with this increase in costs at this stage there is no indication whether the Welsh Government will receive additional funding to support Local Government with the increase in pension costs.  It represents a major risk to our schools who are already struggling to balance their budgets.

36. Why have you just approved a pay increase for Councillors?

The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) is the body responsible for deciding the rates of payments councillors in Wales should receive.   

Each year the IRPW reviews these payments and invites the views of all 22 councils in Wales before imposing any increase.   

On 20 November 2018 Flintshire County Council considered the IRPW’s proposals to increase payments for all councillors by £268 and an additional payment of £532 for some senior councillors (e.g. The Leader, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Members).  Flintshire County Council opposed this increase and resolved ‘that in view of the current financial circumstances the Council considered that the proposed increases in basic salary in 2019/20 for elected members and senior salary levels, made by the IRPW, was not justifiable’.    

Although councils are asked for their views the final decision on the increase rests with the IPRW.  Councils are given no extra funding to pay for these increases and in planning to balance our budget for 2019/20 a sum of £30,000 had to be included to meet this potential extra cost.    

In its report published on 18 February 2019 the IPRW confirmed the increases - as mentioned above – to be payable from 1 April 2019.  Under the rules of the IRPW  “The prescribed salary and expenses must be paid in full to each member [councillor] unless an individual has independently and voluntarily opted in writing to the authority’s proper officer to forego all or any element of the payment. It is fundamental there is transparency in this process so any possible suggestion that members are put under pressure to forego some of the salaries is avoided.” 

This year the Council has had no option but to increase its portion of Council Tax by 8.17%.  This is to bridge the gap between the funding it receives from Welsh Government and to protect key local services for local people.   The increase in payments to councillors, imposed by the IRPW, which amounts to £30,000 in total, is equivalent to 0.05% of that increase.

Page updated - 28 March 2019