MORE central government cash could avoid a planned £800,000 education budget cut for Anglesey, but councillors have been urged to scrap town centre parking hikes to help balance the books.

During last year’s budget setting process the reduction to the delegated schools budget was deferred for a year, but a better than expected settlement from Cardiff Bay could now see such the plans dropped.

Meeting on Monday, Anglesey Council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee was told that the remaining £1.8m funding shortfall could be made up by a mixture of cuts and rate hikes.

The council’s Executive, meeting later in the day, has now launched a formal consultation on the authority’s budget for 2020/21.

Following the Welsh Government’s above inflation draft settlement – representing a 3.8% or £3.6m increase – it leaves number crunchers with £1.828m to make up.

The “break even” point, the report noted, of 4.64% would see a typical Band D property pay an extra £1.11 a week or £57.93 a year.

But having already identified £343,000 of potential cuts, made up mainly from efficiency savings, this would mean a 3.78% council tax rise to make up the remaining shortfall.

However the authority’s chief finance officer, Marc Jones, also raised concerns that the authority’s projected reserves of £4.8m were too low, noting that this had to increase over the coming years.

Increasing pressures on social services was also raised as a matter of concern, with both adult and childrens’ services having spent well beyond their budgets over recent years due to a general nationwide increase in the number of those being taken into care.

Recommending that the consultation should go ahead, committee members also urged caution over certain aspects.

This included urging a rethink over proposed parking hikes which, in a bid to raise an additional £83,000 a year, include charging a minimum payment of £1 rather than 50p in town centre car parks.

In turn, the current £1.50 rate would raise to £1.80, the £2.00 rate to £2.50 and the £3.00 rate to £4.00.

Addressing the meeting of the Executive on Monday afternoon, Cllr Robin Williams proposed consulting the public on a council tax rise of between 4.5% and 5% – in line with the 5% maximum recommended by scrutiny committee members.

He added, “Having done some quick calculations, compared to our nearest neighbours in neighbours, a Band D property’s council tax bill is currently £127.65 cheaper on Anglesey than Gwynedd.

“Were Gwynedd to raise their by 4% and us by 5%, ours would still be £121 a year cheaper, which is something we should bare in mind.”

A public consultation to seek the views of island ratepayers will now be launched, which will be taken into consideration when the final budget setting process takes place in late February.