THE COUNCIL is proposing a 3.5% hike in council tax for residents in Rhondda Cynon Taf next year.
It is part of the budget proposals that council cabinet, on Tuesday, February 28, will consider recommending to full council as the authority aims to close a budget gap of £38m.
The proposal would see 70p increase per week for a person living in a Band A property and £1.05 per week for a person living in a Band D property with 42% of properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf being Band A).
Increasing council tax by 3.5% will reduce the remaining budget gap by £1.433m, the cabinet report said.
In January, cabinet agreed draft proposals for the revenue budget strategy for the financial year 2023/24 which have been out to consultation.
Other councils in Wales are considering or have agreed increases of 8.5% in Newport, 7.9% in Caerphilly, 7.5% in Pembrokeshire, 7.3% in Ceredigion, 6.8% in Carmarthenshire, 6% in Wrexham and Bridgend, 5.95% in Monmouthshire, 5% in Anglesey and Powys, 4.95% in Gwynedd, 4.9% in Vale of Glamorgan, 4.5% in Neath Port Talbot, 4% in Blaenau Gwent, 3.8% in Denbighshire and 1.95% in Torfaen.
The provisional local government settlement in December saw a 6.6% increase announced for RCT with a 7.9% average increase across Wales.
RCT’s capital grant is set to increase by £2.287m to £13.886m having reduced by £2.165m for this financial year
The council’s plans to close its budget gap of £38.326m have seen it advise schools to plan for a 2.75% reduction in funding after being fully funded for pay and non pay pressures and to be prepared to use the flexibility of their own reserves with the cabinet report saying that the aggregate level of school balances increased from £12m to £20m over the course of the last financial year (2021/22)
But the report said schools would be allocated funding in full to cover costs in respect of pay, inflation, energy cost increases, pupil number changes and additional pressures around ALN (Additional Learning Needs).
After adjusting the individual schools budget to reflect lower pension and National Insurance costs, this would provide an extra £18m of funding to schools, it added.
The 2.75% funding reduction that the council has advised schools to plan for would result in a budget cut of £5.3m but the proposals is that an extra £500,000 is set aside as further support with the school based challenges of ALN plus a further £500,000 of general funding reducing the impact on schools to £4.3m.
In overall terms, the proposal would mean that the aggregate schools budget would increase by £13.7m, an increase of 7.9% with the level of efficiencies required also reduced to 2.2%.
Specific service and spending changes
The council is also planning specific service and spending changes in areas such as waste services, meals on wheels, council run nurseries, council tax premiums on long term empty properties and second homes, shifting from revenue to capital funding for some things and fees and charges.
The waste service changes which have been agreed by cabinet include collecting black bags and bins every three weeks with a maximum of three black bags per household (for those with existing black bag waste collections) and the “no side waste” rule continuing for those households with large 240 Litre wheelie bin collections but one bag of side waste, no larger than 70 Litres, being allowed for the standard 120 Litre bins.
It will also see a trial of the use of reusable recycling sacks for the collection of dry mixed recycling with these waste services changes set to save £800,000 over a full year.
Cabinet has also agree changes to the community meals service (meals on wheels) to re-organise it and provide a hot/frozen community meal home delivery service with increased charges for those who use the service which reduces the subsidy per meal and reduces the council’s budget by £427,000.
To increase the availability of a range of childcare options for families in local communities, a market testing exercise confirmed that there are a number of experienced providers who have expressed an interest to deliver one or more of the council run nurseries
Cabinet have agreed that a procurement process will now be carried out and this will reduce the council’s budget by £322,000 in a full year.
Cabinet and council have already agreed the introduction of a council tax premium on long term empty properties and second homes within RCT as the council continues to try to bring empty properties back into use and these measures will raise extra council tax, estimated to be £1.5m in a full year.
Spend has been identified which is currently funded from revenue budgets which could be funded from capital budgets.
These relate to IT software licence costs, vehicle purchases and RCT’s contribution to the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal and would reduce the revenue budget by £4m.
The proposal is that there is a standard 5% increase in fees and charges with the council absorbing the implications of not applying an uplift in line with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) rate of inflation but a number of areas will have different increases or none at all and this proposal would bring in £750,000 of extra income for the council.
Including part year savings such as £600,000 from the waste service changes, £320,000 from the meals on wheels changes and £188,000 from the nursery proposals, these specific service changes would reduce the budget gap by £7.358m.
On energy, the council is proposing a £5m contribution from reserves to smooth the impact for next year.
The latest available forecast increases for RCT Council’s energy costs for next year show a 283% increase for gas and a 147% increase for electricity but the report said it is likely costs for the year after (2024/25) will be lower and that there is the opportunity to use one off funding to smooth the one year spike in energy costs.
In terms of efficiencies, the council is planning just over £16m (16.164m) of them next year from measures which the council said would not significantly impact on service levels or service delivery but would include operational service changes which might be apparent to residents.
Impact on the budget for next year
The impact of all these proposals would see the budget gap reduced to £4.115m and the council plans to use its transitional funding reserve to cover this.
The final local government settlement from Welsh Government is expected in early March