THE largest increase to council tax this county has ever seen is set to go ahead after it was unanimously backed by Cabinet today (Monday).

Cabinet were asked to approve one of three options in a council tax increase to go to Full Council for a final decision.

The option of a 12.5% rise was backed over options of 5% or 8%.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Bob Kilmister told members the increase equated to a £2.11 a week increase or £111 a year rise on an average band D property.

“That seems more palatable than 12.5%,” said Cllr Kilmister.

He told the meeting that there was a £16.4million funding gap for 2018/19 and despite “identified cost reductions” of £10million something still needed to be done to avoid cuts to services.

“I’m absolutely determined we do the right thing and not dodge the issue. We have to make a step change on our council tax levels,” he added.

The council budget had been debated at all overview and scrutiny committee with the “majority view that 12.5%was the correct aim”. There were two members who voted for 8%.

“More information was provided than ever before and I hope the quality has been better than before,” said Cllr Kilmister.

The matter has also been subject to a public consultation with more than 1,300 people taking part, far more than in previous public engagements. It runs until February 16.

Facebook Live events have also been held, reaching tens of thousands of residents and bringing in hundreds of comments.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what that consultation actually says,” added the cabinet member.

Cllr Kilmister added: “I never thought when I took on this role that I would be recommending taking on such a large council tax rise.”

Pembrokeshire having the lowest council tax in Wales - something regularly lauded by the previous administration - had left the county £15m worse off than if council tax was at the average level in Wales, the meeting heard.

“I believe this Authority not only has the lowest Council Tax in Wales but also must be one of the leanest and most productive in Wales. We deliver services at £14.8m less than Welsh Government say we should.
“That does not mean we are still as efficient as we could be, or that major transformation is not required. We need to do both but we also need to get this transformation right and not make knee jerk reactions that we will live to regret," he added.

Cllr Phil Baker added: “I think people realise they’d rather see a 12.5% increase than decimating cuts to services.”

Council leader Cllr David Simpson said if a 12.5% rise in the first 12 months of his role had been known he would have “walked out the door” but having listened to the figures and information he backed the increase.

“There are going to be some people that moan and groan about it but when it comes to £2 a week for the services we want to protect and the people we want to help we have to do it.”

Full council will discuss the 12.5% proposed rise on March 8.