PEOPLE are choosing ‘heat or eat’ and deserve a ‘tax break’, a councillor has said after discussions over a potential 17 percent council tax increase.

At the Connah’s Quay precept meeting, members were originally asked to agree to a 17 per cent increase in council tax.

However, Cllr Bernie Attridge said this was ‘scandalous’ especially as the council has over £200,000 in reserves and residents were being forced to ‘use foodbanks’.

At the annual meeting he said: “Let’s get that down because we cannot for the life of us, any of us put our hands up for a 17 percent council tax rise. Every single one of us would be murdered at the election if we put our hands up on 17 percent when it was only a percentage last year.

“People are choosing to heat or eat and we’re considering putting 17 percent council tax on.”

Cllr Attridge said due to the high amount in the reserves, they could ‘afford’ to give residents a ‘tax break’.

When going through the budget pages, Cllr Attridge formally moved to take out a £2,000 budget for election, despite Cllr Alan Roberts saying it would be ‘rolled onto next year’ if there was no by-election.

Cllr Peter Davies said the council did not ‘want to go into reserves’ but Cllr Attridge asked ‘why put it in?’.

Cllrs voted in favour of taking the two thousand out of the budget. After all the changes made at the meeting, the council tax increase still stood at 16 per cent.

Cllr Bernie Attridge formally recommended an increase of 0 percent council tax, adding: “The only reason we have reserves is for a rainy day, I believe it’s pouring down.

“Let’s give this financial year the taxpayer a tax break. We might be able to help again a small amount following year.

“It still leaves us with a massive amount in reserves.”

“That money in there is the rate payer’s money of Connah’s Quay, it’s their money sat there, let’s give them a break.

“It’s too much when we don’t need to do it. If we didn’t have it, we would be sat here making difficult decisions. We’ve got this big amount. That’s Connah’s Quay people’s money, surely they would have our life for garters if they knew we had that much in reserves.”

However, Cllr Nathan Jones said that due to the increase in National Living Wages of 6.2 percent and an increase in employer pension contributions, he proposed a six percent tax increase and use of reserves.

He told members: “Personally I no longer feel it’s appropriate or justified increasing that much.

“I propose a combination of a reduction of funding plus a select amount reserves.

“What I’m doing here is providing members with a choice to provide a compromise between a 0 percent increase and 16. At a time where austerity is rife, we have no right as councillors to sit on such a large amount of money in reserves. If we don’t increase the precept this year it will simply defer to next year. There has to be some sort of increase this year.”

Cllr Eric Faulkner added: “If the rate payers of Connah’s Quay found out how much we had in the bank, we would be in for a rough road if we don’t do something.”

Cllr Bernie Attridge said a six percent rise was still ‘excessive’ but if council accepted a three percent rise, they would be able to ‘defend’ themselves and ‘justify it’.

Cllr Ian Dunbar said: “Cllr Jones is very sensible. This is Connah’s Quay resident’s money it’s not our money, we do have to be prudent. It's a good compromise, I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

“We have had to make significant increases through salaries, I don’t want council in vulnerable position where if something did go wrong, let’s be sensible and support Cllr Jones.”

Six members voted in favour of a 6 percent rise which would result in £3.06, but nine members voted in favour of the 3 percent rise, resulting in £1.53.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Attridge told the Leader: “I’m absolutely delighted to see the council has listened to my plea to give a tax break for the residents of Connah’s Quay.

“I’m glad members chose not to support the recommendation of 17 per cent increase in council tax and due to inflation of wages, chose the reasonable amount of a three per cent increase.”