Cyngor Gwynedd has outlined the significant challenge facing the county’s Councillors as they set the 2024/25 budget.
This comes following confirmation that the Welsh Government will not provide sufficient funding for local authorities to be able to continue to maintain key services from April onwards. As demand for essential services such as care for older people and housing the homeless continues to increase enormously, Councillors will have to choose between either cutting services that the county’s residents rely on, increasing Council Tax or striking a balance between the two.
The lack of sufficient public sector funding means that Cyngor Gwynedd has already had to find £70 million of savings and cuts over the past few years. To set a budget for the coming year, the county’s Councillors will have to make difficult decisions to find an additional £15 million.
Although the Council will have no choice but to implement a number of cuts to services, with £5.3 million worth of further cuts under consideration for 2024/25, Cyngor Gwynedd will continue to protect the services that the county’s most vulnerable children and families depend on, together with shielding the county’s schools from additional cuts.
After careful consideration, Gwynedd Councillors will agree on a final budget at the Full Council meeting on 7 March 2024 when they will have to consider increasing Council Tax by 9.15% to protect essential services for Gwynedd residents.
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, Leader of Cyngor Gwynedd, said: “Unfortunately, there is more demand than ever for local services such as social services for vulnerable children and adults and housing the growing number of homeless people within the county. For example, we estimate that it will cost around £5.3 million to provide emergency accommodation for homeless people by the end of this financial year.
“To make matters worse, the cost of providing our services has increased too. We will all be painfully aware that the costs of day-to-day items such as electricity, gas, petrol and food have increased substantially. Unfortunately, the same is true for the Council but on a much larger scale.
“For instance, we foresee that the cost of lighting and heating our schools, residential homes and other Council buildings will be £1.6 million greater during 2024/25 compared to this year. The cost of transporting pupils to school has risen by £1.5 million during this year and will increase by a further £400,000 in 2024/25.
“We have been warning the Government for a long time that a lack of money year on year is putting services for local people at risk. I’m gravely concerned that things have reached a tipping point and we no longer have an option but to cut services and increase Council Tax.
“For years, we have been making every effort to shield the most vulnerable in society from the negative impact of the shrinking budgets we receive from the Government. Despite the dire financial situation we find ourselves in again this year, we are determined to continue to protect essential services, such as those for vulnerable children and education.”
Councillor Ioan Thomas, Cyngor Gwynedd’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “This year, Cyngor Gwynedd is one of the two local authorities to receive the least amount of funding from the Welsh Government as our population has fallen more than any other county. But our costs remain high – for instance, the fact that slightly fewer children attend our schools doesn’t make it cheaper to heat the classroom, to run the school bus or to make sure the school building itself is safe and secure.
“Last year, we were able to avoid £6.4 million of service cuts or Council Tax increases by introducing new and innovative ways of running services.
“We continue to call on the Westminster Government to fund local councils fairly and echo the Welsh Local Government Association’s message that consequential funding derived from additional funding for English councils should be passed on in full to Welsh councils. As things stand, we anticipate that the situation over the coming two years will be critical.”
Help is available to those who are struggling to pay their Council Tax bill, as well as a comprehensive package of resources to help them cope with the cost-of-living crisis. If you, or someone you know, are concerned about your financial situation, visit the Cyngor Gwynedd website: www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/CostOfLivingCrisis