The FINAL budget for Bridgend has been approved by Bridgend County Borough Council this week, after lengthy discussions by members at a full council meeting on March 1.
The final budget for 2023-2024, which has been described as a “Wellbeing budget” by council bosses, came after considerable discussion between cabinet and opposition members, before eventually being passed by a vote of 26 to 20.
It will now consist of a gross revenue budget of £485 million, a net budget of £342 million, and an additional capital investment programme of £69 million.
It will also include a 4.9% increase in council tax for residents, along with a 2% cut to school funding, after the authority was tasked with finding £2.6 million worth of savings this year, with a further £17 million needing to be found over the next four years.
Cllr Jane Gebbie said: “As a mother, a grandmother, and as an unpaid carer to my disabled parents, knowing that the cost of living is impacting on our finances, I’m very aware of the financial impact that our budget will have on the families in our borough.
“However it is the same crisis that is impacting on our councils finances as well. I have no hesitation in supporting this budget proposal before full council today, as I know it is the best option available for us to ensure the protection of our most vulnerable residents.”
Despite this, opposition members in the chamber believed there were other options to explore with the budget this year, with Cllr Amanda Williams of Coity Higher, requesting that the leader withdraw the proposals and consider an alternative draft which was submitted to the chief financial officer by the Independent group a week before.
The request came after fears regarding the impact a 2% reduction to schools budget could have in the area, which would result in cuts of around £2 million for Bridgend’s 60 schools, largely drawn from staffing budgets.
This request was later rejected on the basis that financial officer, Carys Lord, felt the alternative proposals were not “robust” enough with regard to its long term financial planning.
The budget which was passed at full council will now see up to £92.79m spent on Social Services and Wellbeing, £137m spent on the Education and Family Support Directorate, as well as a £69 million capital investment programme for developments such as the ongoing regeneration in Porthcawl.
Savings will come in the form of switching street lighting to LEDs across the county, saving a potential £100,000, commercially letting two wings of Ravens Court to a partner organisation or business for a saving of £120,000, and charging blue badge holders for parking in council-run car parks for around £40,000.
Costs to a number of council services such as bulky waste collections will also increase, along with the council’s contribution to South Wales Fire Service going up by 12.9%, and the south Wales Police Precept going up by 7.4%.
Council leader Huw David said: “I have already stated on record that this has been the single most challenging budget that I have ever been involved in setting, but I am proud of the way in which it seeks to support families, promote wellbeing and protect the most vulnerable.
“This budget achieves this while also contending with pressures such as the ongoing cost of living crisis, huge rises in demand for essential services, a massive 10% rise in inflation and increasing difficulties in sourcing materials and resources.
“In setting it, we have learned from best practice, have both lobbied for and received a fair settlement from Welsh Government, and have taken the proposals through multiple meetings of the all-parties Budget Research And Evaluation Panel, scrutiny, Corporate Management Board, a wide-ranging public consultation and more.
“This ‘Wellbeing budget’ has been recognised as one that remains ambitious while also being firmly grounded in reality. It has been crafted to reflect the priorities, pressures and concerns of local people, and to remain fit for purpose throughout the year ahead. No matter what fresh challenges we may be presented with in 2023-24, this budget ensures that we will be prepared, ready and able to meet them head-on.”