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Bridgend Council budget 2023-24: What it means for finance and resources

Bridgend County Borough Council's Civic Offices on Angel Street (Pic: Bridgend County Borough Council)

BUDGET proposals for 2023-24 have been endorsed by the Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council
to ensure the local authority can continue to provide essential services and meet some of the most
difficult challenges that it has ever faced.

Councillor Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Resources, believes that while it represents the toughest
budget that he has ever worked upon, it also prioritises people’s wellbeing and reflects the reality of the
unique situation facing the UK right now.

He said: “This budget has been set against a backdrop of huge increases in demand for essential
council services, an unavoidable need to make savings of £2.6m, a massive 10 per cent rise in inflation,
increasing difficulties in sourcing materials and resources including staff, and the ongoing impact of the
cost of living crisis upon us all.

“The council is not immune to any of this, and while householders have been rightly concerned about
pressing issues such as rising food and energy bills or how they can afford to heat their homes, the
same issues have affected our day centres for adults, our homes for looked-after children, our residential
care facilities and more.

“When you consider that we have already covered a £72m shortfall since 2010-11, setting a fully
balanced budget which enables us to meet these increased costs while also continuing to provide
important services has been truly challenging.

“What we have done is to finely-tune this budget, making sure it is as fair as possible to the taxpayer
while also remaining realistic and fit for purpose, all while focusing upon maintaining the ongoing health,
safety and wellbeing of the people we serve.”

To help guide their decision-making, Cabinet developed a set of principles outlining their aims which
have underpinned the budget – to protect the most vulnerable people in local communities, to focus
upon preserving and protecting services by limiting growth for the coming financial year, to review all
budgets and identify savings, to prioritise reductions against back office functions, to anticipate future
budget pressures, and to consider whether schools are able to contribute towards the overall savings
after having been protected from cuts for more than a decade.

Councillor Williams said: “In addition to applying these principles, we have learned from best practice at
other local authorities, 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, the scrutiny committee process, Corporate Management Board, a wide-ranging public
consultation and more.

“All of this has resulted in a gross revenue budget of £485m, a net budget of £342m and a capital
investment programme of £69m.

“At 4.9 per cent, we have kept council tax as low as possible, reducing it down from the previously
suggested 6 per cent in order to fund additional budget pressures and cover a funding shortfall of £8m.
This works out as being the equivalent of an extra £1.50 a week for an average Band D property.

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“We have also been able to avoid proposed cuts for home-to-college transport, fly-tipping enforcement
and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution while investing money such as £1.8m for upgrading children’s
play areas, £1.75m on grants to provide disabled facilities in people’s homes, £1m on refurbishing local
highways and much more.

“This is a budget that prioritises wellbeing, and I look forward to seeing it go before full Council on
Wednesday 1 March for a final decision.”

Councillor Williams also addressed two of the most commonly asked questions around the issue of
setting the council budget.

He said: “We are often asked why we do not use council reserves when faced with having to make cuts,
but the clue really is in the name – it is money which has already been reserved for specific purposes,
and which is subject to regular audit to ensure that it is maintained at the right level.

“Similarly, while some have suggested that the council gains extra revenue by charging council tax on
new housing developments, this isn’t true – before providing councils with their funding allocations for
the year, Welsh Government first deducts the amount of council tax that each area is expected to raise.”