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Council tax could go up by 9.5% in Bridgend

COUNCIL tax could go up by as much as 9.5% in Bridgend county borough, as part of the annual budget proposal set to go before council bosses.

The report, which will be heard by members on Tuesday, January 16, outlines the local authority’s medium-term financial position, as well as proposing a detailed budget for 2024-25.

It comes just weeks after members discussed an  overspend of almost £10m for 2023-24, with both cabinet members and the council’s leader Huw David saying difficult decisions would now have to be made.

The proposed budget for Bridgend in 2024-25 is £359.725m, however the report says this includes pay and price pressures of £21.5m, along with predicted budget reductions of more than £16m.

This could result in a host of cuts to non-statutory services in the coming year, as well as changes to other services in order to make up for the multi-million pound gap.

The report read: “Unfortunately, despite the settlement we will receive for 2024-25 being an increase overall, it is still less than inflation, and due to the number of unavoidable pressures we are facing, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to balance the budget without also making consequential changes to the level of services that we can provide and prioritising those services that are deemed most important in terms of meeting the council’s agreed priorities.”

The papers also suggest a number of saving measures that could be made in the final budget, which include a 5% cut to schools budgets, the closing of recycling centres across Bridgend for an additional day on the weekend, a rise in general fees and charges, and a 9.5% increase in council tax.

The report added: “Based on the proposed budget of £359.725m, there is a proposed 9.5% increase in council tax for 2024-25. This is much larger increase than we would wish to make, but a combination of increasing demand for services, cost pressures, both pay and price increases, and a below inflation settlement from Welsh Government, means that this is required in order to set a balanced budget.”

Other saving measures within the proposals include an increase in the price of school meals by 30p, a review of home to school transport, which could see the removal of transport for nursery children, as well as a reduction in street cleaning staff and resources.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in a previous interview,  Mr David said: “There’s no doubt about it – it is the most difficult financial period in the history of Bridgend County Borough Council, and I would say in the history of the 22 local authorities in Wales, and that is the same across the UK.

“There are authorities virtually on a daily basis in England announcing they are on the cliff’s edge. We’ve seen Birmingham, which is the biggest council not just in the UK but the biggest council in western Europe, making that announcement and I’ve never seen that in my 20 years in local government.

“There’s certainly a sense of urgency and a sense that we have never seen the level of challenge that we have this year, and from speaking to very experienced leaders from other authorities and experienced officers I would say that is the case right across Wales.”

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