Penarth Town Council's headquarters at West House

Penarth Town Council’s headquarters at West House

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

The Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council is now officially set to spend more council-taxpayers’ money than ever before in its history and  has –  in this month’s council meeting  – approved expenditure (for 2017/18) of  a record £920,695.

The plans for the council’s highest-ever spend have been revealed in a revised budget following from the chaotic Finance Committee meeting of December 20th   at which the council had appeared to be on course to spend an even higher amount  of £1,114,112 in 2017/18 – but was scaled back at the last-minute [see PDN backgrounder at the end of this item].

Now a revised final budget, with 2017/18 spend trimmed back to £920,695, has been presented to the full council and has been agreed.

The Penarth Town Council precept is to rise by 4.97% - yet again outstripping the rate of inflation

The Penarth Town Council precept is to rise by 4.97% – yet again outstripping the rate of inflation

To fund the huge £920,695 spend, the council is about to impose its highest ever “precept”  [the Penarth part of the part of the Vale of Glamorgan Council 2017/18 Council Tax Bill].  The precept tax-take is to rise to £714,903 for 2017/18 and will be taken from the 11,292 households in the town. That means  the town’s council-tax-precept will rise in 2017/18 by an inflation-busting 4.97%  – [well in excess of the current rate of inflation which is 1.2%].

…,. BUT  that 4.97% increase will not be anything like enough to pay for Penarth Council’s planned expenditure for 2017/18  – so the council is going to have to dig into its reserves to the  tune of £45,000.

….AND to make all these figures work –  Penarth Council is making an ambitious assumption that it will be able to generate income of no less than £160,792  (from venue rentals and so on) during the year. That’s more income than the council has ever managed to generate in the past.  

The single largest item in the spending budget is now Office Administration” – budgeted at a record £367,178 . “Office Administration” – which includes the cost of the council’s burgeoning West House staff – is now set to comprise almost 40% of the council’s total expenditure in 2017/18.

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

In a discussion on the budget Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said “We  understand the objectives and aims of the council but getting that message across to the  public of Penarth is more difficult. We have not as yet looked at the fees and charges for the next financial year when the council will have to look at increasing those charges – because of the spend.  “  He said  the figures now showed considerable increases in Office Administration costs and Council administration.

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said his interpretation of the headline figures was that the increase for council-tax payers in the town precept represented “less than 4% for a ‘Band D'” [meaning a Band D rated property].

PDN Note : Cllr Thomas subsequently claimed he had been misquoted. The council’s use of the discredited “Band D” comparison has already been criticised by local Conservative councillors as misleading because it does not represent the “average” household in Penarth – most of which are in higher bands]

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward)

Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said  his colleagues on the SRG  had already – in effect – approved the increase

[PDN Note: The term  “SRG ” means the “Strategic Review Group” on which Cllr Turner sits with Labour councillors. Its meetings are not open to the public and its minutes are not published.]   

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell)

Cllr Ian Courtney (Labour Cornerswell) wished to endorse “the general direction of travel about which there is a genuine cross-party consensus”. He said that “Penarth really is a rare place” which he said “consistently features very highly as a wonderful place to live.    People do not mind paying money when they can see it is well-managed and well spent and it will increase the quality of their lives.”

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell)

Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) supported Cllr Courtney’s remarks saying Penarth was a “premier town – one of the best places to live in Wales, if not the UK “.  He said the Town Council had helped that  – a good example of which was the new signage around the town which was “so much an improvement on what was there before“. There was more investment than before in Penarth and there were not that many [retail] vacancies in the town centre – unlike other towns. He said the [Welsh Government’s Well-being of Future Generations legislation] was something on which the council would soon have to produce a detailed report – “and I think this budget will help us achieve that”.

The revised budget was formally approved and passed by mute assent.

PDN BACKGROUND: The new 2017/18 budget follows the chaotic policy and finance committee meeting of December 20th  when no one had the right figures in front of them,  the council’s spend for 2017/18 was estimated at  £1,114,112 and the members of the controlling Labour group were accused of “taking fright” at their own budget.

That estimated £1,114,112 figure was so high that 40 minutes before the December 20th meeting, the Labour group embarked on a series of last-minute cut-and-slash cuts to try to reduce the size of the spend. Large chunks of budgeted cash were removed from the budgets of the Summer Festival and the  Christmas Festival (last year’s events had both been strongly criticised) and from Picnic Penarth. Labour councillors were later accused by Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) of  having “taken fright”  at their own draft budget.

A follow-up Finance Committee meeting scheduled for January 8th 2017 was cancelled and the Full Council meeting –  at which the final figures were due to have been agreed – which was supposed to be held on January 19th, but was postponed for a week .


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  1. Peter Church says:

    4.9% rise!
    Don’t forget Police precept rise of 5% caused by:
    Alun (I’m Labour so I like spending other peoples money) Michael

    The worst thing about the Penarth Town Council Precept is not all the money collected here goes to our town council, no marks where some of it ends up (starts with B and ends in Y)
    All to do with the council tax banding distribution in Panarth and Barry.

    Still as everyone knows, people in Penarth have money to burn.

  2. Chris Franks says:

    Pleased to report 0% increase in Dinas Powys – [Dare I add well done to Plaid Cymru for running such an effective council?]

    • JME Snr says:

      What has been the % rises in other non election years? Plus the CC appears to be sitting on around £100k of reserves. Why? Apologies in advance if I’ve misread your accounts.

    • Colin Davies says:

      Given how little the community council does for the wider area of Dinas Powys I’d be absolutely livid if the contribution had increased!!! Perhaps you should undertake a canvass of the area and ask residents on their thoughts rather than assuming you do a good job!!

  3. Dan Potts says:

    Thank goodness we have local elections in May, please let’s vote Labour out before they do anymore damage !

  4. Chris David says:

    If its true we subsidise Barry then that’s a scandal. Budget planning in Penarth appears chaotic. Do the councillors not have departmental responsibilities and work on budgets throughout the year? Don’t they prepare- come prepared and present? Cllr Courtney I know has a financial background and whilst his broad statement resonates true, he is wrong if he thinks people are prepared to chuck money away on waste and inefficiency, or an another town. The council should also remember there are a lot of people in Penarth that don’t have much spare cash. Elitism we don’t’ want and that’s rich coming from labour! The rates should just not be allowed to increase above the rate of inflation. They could make a start by cutting out the fripperies like Welsh language support which should be a small budget central government issue only. Sorry- no confidence that PTC is professionally run and fiscally responsible. And what this about closed groups the Strategic Review lot? That’s another scandal, nothing should be under cover, and we the employees should know want they’re doing and what they are spending. It does occur to me that when “ordinary” people get elected to a council, they suddenly have some sort of head transplant and think quite oddly!!

  5. John64 says:

    Here we go again! The Labour controlled Town Council persist with their job creation ideal at West House but can a clear explanation as to why the staff costs have risen so greatly be given? What benefit to the precept payers has been received? Is the rest of the budget spend giving value for money? What are the costs and revenue of the Paget Rooms “live” cinema? Answers needed but will we get them? I doubt it but one thing is for sure, all the town councillors will be out and about as the May elections draw nearer. PUT THEM ON THE SPOT when they knock the door!

    • Ann Other says:

      Exactly right, John64, on the staff costs. Is there no-one on the council that can ask for the kind of cost/benefit information on the jobs that you ask for? There must be someone in the room with some business sense, surely?

  6. Chris David says:

    Well done to Plaid and great for Dinas Powys. Chris Franks should come to Penarth and show them how its done. To put the madness off Wales labour spending in perspective. Finance Wales owned by the WG has just increased the salary of the head its head to £407,000 PA +NHI. That comes to near £450,000 + expenses and probably benefits. So labour pay ONE of its own- ONE member of a very small “bank” nearly half the budget Penarth has for a year. Where has it all gone wrong? Without a doubt Labour and the public sector are out of control and pocket lining on a (few thousand) grand scale.

  7. The town council cancelled the record fair today. Result. Lots of angry punters. Less income for the council.
    And it was raining so I got very wet for nothing. At this moment I hate the town council.

  8. Neil Thomas says:

    I did not ‘claim’ I was misquoted, I stated that I was misquoted, a subtle but significant difference. What I actually said, in a discussion about headline figures, was that the increase represents less than 4p a week for a band d property. All money raised through the precept is used by PTC in Penarth and none is given or passed on to Barry or the Vale despite the misinformation on this thread. Unlike the County Councils the town and community councils do not get any of the business rates nor do we receive money from central government. The precept and any income generated by eg The Paget Rooms or The Kymin is what you see in the budget which is published in all the usual ways.

  9. Chris David says:

    Thank you for clearing that up Mr Thomas- I did ask and now we know. But you say that Penarth doesn’t see any of the business rates? How much is that and where does it go? It remains though, that from what we see here and reported elsewhere, PTC are not very efficient at producing budgets. They appear in disarray and very unorganised. And as for the extreme silliness of cancelling the Record Fair and other money raisers- well beyond belief. You have all those extra staff and staff costa but clearly no professionals.

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