‘Refund taxpayers for diminished services during Covid,’ call to council
Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter
Following a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, questions from members of the public return to Powys County Council meetings.
The questions were submitted beforehand and have received a written response from the relevant cabinet member.
The people who’ve posed them will get to ask an extra follow up question at the meeting which takes place on Thursday, October 13.
Patrick Edwards has asked: “Is the council going to refund council tax to council taxpayers for the greatly diminished services it provided during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as the Government paid 80 per cent of many council workers’ wages through the furlough scheme?”
Finance cabinet member, Cllr David Thomas, said: “The council faced significant pressure and although some services ceased or were limited for a time, most continued to be delivered, many had to adapt to different ways of working in order to keep employees and service users safe.
“Schools delivered hubs to support the children of key workers, and delivered online teaching for pupils, care staff continued to deliver care services to residents in need, social workers continued to support older people and children and Waste collection services were maintained.
“Where services did stop, staff were redeployed to undertake other duties such things as welfare calls to our vulnerable residents, track and trace support, enforcement work and other areas where pressure on the council’s services increased.”
Cllr Thomas explained that councils all over Wales were asked to do their bit in helping the Welsh Governments response to the pandemic by distributing support to people and businesses.
£114m grants and relief
Cllr Thomas said that £114million worth of business grants and rate relief schemes were paid out as well as carers, self-isolation, and school meal payments.
Cllr Thomas said: “For many months, the council operated at business-critical level because the demands to support the public and the Welsh Governments response were so great.
“The pandemic impacted significantly on the council’s finances, additional costs and loss of income was set to push the council into a significant deficit even after fully utilising the funding we receive annually from Welsh Government and collect through council tax.
“We did draw support from the government furlough scheme for the limited number of staff we were unable to redeploy, but we also drew down £29.743 million from the Welsh Government Covid hardship fund which enabled us to balance the budget.”
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What a daft idea. It would cost a huge amount to administer never mind the fact that most councils did not end up with Covid related surpluses. The quoted Mr Edwards wouldn’t happen to be a Tory would he? It sounds like the sort of idea Welsh Tories would tend to have.