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Difficult decisions will need to be made, warns Leader

Posted on : 07 Nov 2018

Difficult decisions will need to be made, warns Leader

Cabinet Members will next week (Wednesday 14th November) consider draft savings proposals, along with a higher than anticipated council tax rise, totalling over £15.6 million, which will be required if the council is to deliver a balanced budget for next year.

In October, Welsh Government announced its provisional budget settlement, which broke down how much money will go into public services across Wales. Under the settlement, Caerphilly County Borough Council faces a funding reduction of 0.3%. This, coupled with inescapable pressures that the council has to fund, means that Caerphilly has to find savings for the next year alone (2019/20) totalling almost £14.7 million (£14.660m), with a higher than anticipated council tax rise being proposed to cover the remaining shortfall.

While the Chancellor, in his recent autumn statement, indicated that additional funds would be coming to Wales, it is currently still unclear if or how Caerphilly County Borough Council will benefit, with the council unlikely to know this until mid-December.

Cllr Dave Poole, Leader of the Council said, “These really are unprecedented times for local government. While we’ve been doing all we can in previous years to maximise back office savings in order to protect our residents, I’m afraid the time has come where some very difficult decisions will need to be made”.

The council has already delivered savings in excess of £89 million since 2008, and the potential cumulative total of savings required by the council over the next five years could be around a further £60 million.

Cllr Poole continued, “None of us went into politics to cut services. It’s heartbreaking to even have to contemplate having to make some of the savings proposals that are facing us, but the fact remains that we cannot make such vast savings from our budget and expect things to remain the same. I’m afraid I can only reiterate that the time has come for some very difficult decisions”.

In its draft budget proposals for 2019/2020, the council is forced to consider proposals which include:

  • Reductions in street cleansing, grass cutting and highways maintenance
  • The closure of two Household Waste Recycling Centres
  • Reduced spending on libraries, youth, adult services and day care provision
  • Reductions in school budgets and school initiatives
  • Increases in school meal prices
  • The Community Safety Wardens service to cease
  • Closure of public toilets and four community centres
  • Cease Meals on Wheels service except for clients under section 117 

Cllr Barbara Jones, Deputy Leader of the Council added, “The council faces millions of pounds worth of inescapable pressures that it has no alternative but to pay; things like the living wage, social services cost pressures, pension contributions, council tax reduction scheme and school service pressures. Despite this extremely trying situation however, of the £14.660 million savings proposals that have been put forward for consideration, over £10.1 million of those have either nil or low impact upon our residents. The situation is deeply concerning, but despite this, we’re working hard to protect and prioritise key frontline services”.

The council’s draft budget savings proposals also include a proposed 6.95% increase in council tax in order to help the council meet its extremely challenging savings targets. The increase would equate to an annual increase of £73.51, or a weekly increase of £1.41 based on a Band D property.

Cllr Poole continued, “My discussions with other Council Leaders across Wales paint an equally bleak picture for local government as we’ve known it to date. None of us want to increase council tax, but we have no alternative but to ask our residents to pay a little more for the services they receive.

“Following initial consideration by Cabinet next week, the proposals will be subject to a far reaching period of public consultation, which will run from Monday 19th November through into the New Year. It’s important that residents and all other interested parties have the chance to have their say”. 

“It’s an extremely difficult prospect, the extent of the financial challenges facing us, but we are up for the challenge”, he added.

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