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Local authorities in Wales are expected to introduce one of the lowest increases in council tax since it came into force in 1993.

With most confirming the level they will set for the coming year, research by BBC Wales suggests that there will be an average rise of 3.9% in April.

It means the average band D home is likely to have to pay around £905, a rise of £34 on last year.

The biggest rises are expected to be in Conwy and Ceredigion for a second year.

Other high increases will be seen in Bridgend and Blaenau Gwent (4.95%), Rhonda Cynon Taf (4.92%), and Monmouthshire (4.72%).

Four councils are expected to keep the level of increase below 3% - Caerphilly (2.7%), Merthyr Tydfil (2.9%), Denbighshire (2.95%) and Powys (2.99%).

It is the second year running that Welsh councils have kept their average increase below 4%.

This compares to a recently reported increase of 3% in council tax in England, with the average English band D bill estimated by the Local Government Association to increase by £41 to £1,414.

Councilor John Davies, leader of The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), said it had been hard to set council tax during the current economic climate.

"It's been very difficult if you consider all the additional pressures coming through from services delivery," he said.

"More people are asking for help and more people are on the poverty line because of the current financial crisis.

"The downturn in interest we have from our reserves has also made a big difference, which is something anybody who is trying to save money at the moment will know.

"For example councils who were previously gaining £4m in interest from their reserves in 12 months may now be looking at £500,000 at most.

"Put that together with more responsibilities being given to councils, along with the fact we have had one of the poorest [financial] settlements from the assembly government [this year]."

He said he was worried about how councils would cope in the long-term with more responsibilities being given to them, but low financial settlements from the Welsh Assembly Government.

"It's about how you sustain settlements and meeting the expectations of the public with regards to using services. How do you fund expectations?" he said.

Politicians representing Clwyd West said they were worried about the impact of a 5% council tax rise in Conwy.

It is the second year in a row that council tax payers in the area - along with Ceredigion - will receive a 5% rise in their bills.

David Jones MP said: "Many residents of Conwy are retired and are living on investment and savings income. Over the last few months, they have seen the return on their savings drop alarmingly.

"Many of them, now seeing this increase imposed by the council, will wonder how they will be able to pay their way.

His fellow Conservative, Darren Millar AM, added: "This inflation busting increase will hit everyone in Conwy hard.

"The recession has impacted on all sectors of society - from pensioners to business men - and this hike will push many people beyond their means."

In addition to the basic council tax, Welsh households will also face increases in their bills to fund the police, as well as smaller amounts for community or town councils.

BBCNEWS, 3 March 2009|||Low rise for council tax payers
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