A public question on Pembrokeshire’s recent budget submitted to the County Council by one of its Labour members drew the ire of the new leader of the Independent Group, who labelled it “defamatory and vexatious”.

Pembrokeshire County Council was facing a 16.3 per cent council tax increase when setting the council budget for 2024-25 in March; that figure dropping to 12.5 per cent after an 11th-hour alternative budget proposal by deputy leader Cllr Paul Miller was narrowly backed.

That drop in the council tax rise was made by using additional reserves of £1.5m, as well as £1m target for council efficiency savings, along with leisure services savings.

Pembrokeshire County Council, at its May meeting of full council, received a submitted question from Councillor Joshua Beynon, which asked: “Setting a budget is always a difficult process.

“Ever-reducing central government funding since 2010 has meant difficult decisions for the council on service cuts and council tax rises.

“Despite the difficulties, the leader, cabinet member for finance and the administration generally has in my view always taken the necessary difficult decisions to do what’s in the best interests of Pembrokeshire.

“That approach is the opposite of that taken by the Independent Political Group. We now know that Cllr Murphy had organised to support a 12.78 per cent council tax rise but when it came to this administration proposing 12.5 per cent, he and his fellow members voted against it on mass.

“Does the Cabinet member agree with me that this revelation is surprising?”

At the full meeting of council, Cllr Murphy, elected the day before as leader of the group, asked for the question either to be struck, or for Cllr Beynon to withdraw it, labelling it “defamatory or vexatious”.

“As you would know, members of the IPG voted for the proposal put forward by Cllr Miller; we do not ‘whip’. The assertion I had ordered a 12.78 per cent rise, I did not support an alternative budget, the use of £300,000 was never put forward.

“Cllr Beynon makes a claim that I and the IPG never make difficult decisions; I moved an increase in long-term empty properties, which the Cabinet member for finance supported, which resulted in lower council tax.

“Increasing tax is not an easy decision, to say that I never make a difficult decision is incorrect, and is vexatious.”