Anglesey Council accused of 'overcharging' residents after underspend of £1.2 million

It is the third year in a row that the council has reported an underspend, with one opposition councillor claiming the money should be "refunded". Credit: ITV Wales

Anglesey Council has been accused of "overcharging" residents after it was left with an underspend of more than £1 million.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the council's executive heard that the projected overall financial position for 2022/23 was estimated to show an underspend of £1.2m.

It is the third year in a row that the council has reported an underspend.

Criticism was lodged at the Plaid Cymru-led council by Liberal Democrat councillor Aled Morris Jones. He claimed island residents were being "overcharged", adding that the council should repay the £10m it had underspent over the past three years.

He said: "In 21/22, the council reported an underspend of £4.8m and in 20/21 it was £4.2m.

"Added to the £1.2m over the past three years, that totals £10.2m.

"It shows, what we as the opposition group have been saying for a long time, they have been overcharging the people of Ynys Môn. They should refund the money."

However, during the meeting, the deputy leader and representative for finance Cllr Robin Wyn Williams said the underspend "did not reflect the true position".

He said: "There is more to this than what is on the surface.

"When people hear an underspend again, of £1.2m they will say what are they doing?

"It's important to recognise that the financial situation is different when you lift the bonnet up and look into the financial situation more carefully.

"If we pull the one-offs out of the budget, for 22/23, the financial situation is very different.

"When you consider things like vacancies throughout the year, grants from Cardiff coming late in the day, and consider how much in reserves we used, if they weren't part of this budget, we would have overspent during the year - 22/23 - an overspend of expenditure of £2.8m, that would have created a higher gap in the budget moving forward into 23/24."

The council's deputy leader said the underspend "did not reflect the true position". Credit: ITV Wales

He described how in March 2022, the council set a budget for the coming financial year of £158,365m, funded through council, non-domestic rates and Welsh Government grants.

Cllr Williams said: "There was an increase in our budget from the Welsh Government of 9.2 percent, that was welcomed."

But a number of areas, including social care and homelessness had seen "a lot of pressure" during the year, the meeting heard.

He added: "I have always said it is important for use to be prudent, to take a step back and think about the situation in the long-term, rather than just rushing into decisions.

"There were noises in the scrutiny committee over why are we increasing council tax, we have to.

"We also have to remember, we are amongst the five or six cheapest council taxes in Wales [and] the cheapest in North Wales."

The average council tax, band D, on Anglesey is set at £1,825 for 2023/24. That is an increase of around 5% on last year's £1,738, which is below the Wales' average increase of 5.8%.

Denbighshire Council is the only local authority in north Wales to show a smaller proportional increase with a rise of roughly 4% instead.

Anglesey has the fifth lowest band D council tax out of all 22 Welsh local authorities for the current financial year. It also held the same position when compared to other councils in 22/23.

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