COUNCIL TAX could go up by as much as 12.5 percent in order to fill a £3.64 million budget black hole, Pembrokeshire County Council's cabinet heard on Monday.

Councillors were told they will have to have the difficult decision of whether to raise council tax by double digits or to cut back on essential services.

Councillor Bob Kilmister, cabinet member for finance, said that the draft budget for 2018-19 had a shortfall of £3.64 million. The council needed to find out where that would come from.

The projected shortfall was based on the presumption that council tax would go up by five percent and that each department within the authority would cut back by five percent

"One of the things that cabinet and council will have to determine is whether or not we make further cuts, which I believe could be draconian in terms of the effect or whether we impose a higher council tax above the five percent.

"That is something that I believe at the present moment we are going to have to do."

He said an increase of 12.5 percent would be required to meet the £3.64 million budget deficit for next year and recommended that two budgets were produced before next month's meeting of full council; one based on a five percent council tax increase and one on a 12.5 percent increase so members could asses different impacts.

He added that Pembrokeshire was paying for not having adequate council tax and the county was 30% lower than Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, which equated to a £15 million difference in council tax revenue.

Pembrokeshire currently had 30% less money in the budget than was required for them to deliver the services required of them by Welsh Government.

"Clearly we have a decision to make," he said. "Whatever we do, if we increase council tax, we are going to hurt large sections of the community within the county. The working poor will be damaged by that [council tax increase] I have no wish whatsoever to do that.

"The alternative is that we hit the most vulnerable and the most important in our society with cuts. That is something that all members of this council are going to have to consider and that is the position we find ourselves in at the present moment.

"We are in the situation where we need to have a debate on what we do next."

A draft budget will be published on December 14 before a final decision in March.