We had two key votes at the Monmouthshire full council meeting a few days ago.  The first was on the 2024/25 budget, in which Labour councillors proposed a rise of 7.8% rise, even though they had a public consultation on a 7.5% increase and only 19% of the public supported it.  It was a lazy package of cuts to services like leisure centres, children’s music lessons and the county’s outdoor education centre and increases in taxes, fees and charges, including green waste bins, car parks and a doubling in the cost of school breakfast clubs.


We were disappointed the council hadn’t lobbied Welsh Government for an increase on the lowest per head funding of any council in Wales.  Thankfully the council had received a consequential from increased spending on councils from the UK Government, so the council was able to ditch its planned cuts to school budgets of nearly £1million.  Councillors also agreed to scrap the ridiculous idea to start charging for food waste bags, which even council officers warned could cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds in fines from the Welsh Government because they’d be more likely to miss recycling targets.


We still believed the budget could have been improved and were ready to negotiate a better deal for residents, as we did last year.  Unfortunately a Green and an Independent councillor who had cemented an agreement with Labour to join a formal coalition and take on extra paid roles both supported the budget, so it passed, contrary to the interests of their residents.  Council tax has now risen by over 14% since Labour took over the Council less than two years ago.


The second key vote was brought forward by my Conservative colleague Cllr Lisa Dymock on the Welsh Government’s controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).  We passed a motion calling on the Welsh Government to pause its consultation and go back to the drawing board on its proposals for farmers to effectively give up 20% of their land, but it was disappointing that the Labour group and the same Green and Independent members abstained.  We would have liked to have sent a clearer cross-party message to Welsh Government that their scheme would be devastating for our agricultural industry.  Recent crises like the Coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have served as reminders about how we need to become more reliant on home-grown food and that means supporting our farmers.  After all, no farmers, no food.