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Cardiff Council u-turns on plans to remove public bins

Cardiff Council has reconsidered its plan to get rid of public bins on residential streets as part of a plan to save millions of pounds (Pic: Ted Peskett)

CARDIFF Council has u-turned on plans to get rid of public bins on residential streets in the city, but its proposed council tax rise has doubled.

The public bins proposal was one among a number of ideas put out to consultation by the local authority as part of its plan to close a budget gap of £30m.

Another idea the council has reconsidered is its proposal to reduce street cleansing in some areas.

The council said a proposed council tax increase of 6% and £2.5m of funding from the Welsh Government had allowed it to make some of these changes to its 2024/25 budget.

Originally, the council was looking at a council tax rise of 3%.

Talking about what he called the most challenging budget he’d had to set since joining the council’s cabinet in 2017, Cllr Chris Weaver said the street cleansing proposals were “very unpopular” during a public consultation.

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The cabinet member for finance added: “We are aware that residents have been concerned about the level of cleanliness in the streets and we want to do what we can to stop it and to improve those services.

“Many of the [proposals] we consulted on are going ahead.

“We have been able to modify some and take a more moderate saving than the potential worst case scenario, again because of that decision on council tax and because of that additional Welsh Government funding, but that is probably the biggest change from the consultation to the proposal.”

The public consultation on the council’s proposed budget took place from January 8 to February 4 and 9,000 people took part.

Proposals to reduce black bin bag collections to once every three weeks are still in the council’s plans and this is expected to be brought in later in the year if the budget proposals pass a council vote next month.

The budget update still needs to go through a scrutiny process and be approved by cabinet members at meeting on Thursday, February 29.

Plans to increase the cost of school meals, sports pitch hire, some parking charges and burials are still on the table.

The cost of school meals will go up by 10p rather than the originally proposed 30p; sports pitch costs are now proposed to go up by 10%; out of hours burial fees are expected to be set at 10%; and the hours at hubs and libraries will be reduced rather than close for a day a week.

A proposal to reduce the number of park rangers has also altered, with the plan now to reduce the number of park rangers by two full time employees instead of four.

High demand on council services, ever increasing costs and expected pay increases are among the major drivers behind the financial pressure on local authorities across the UK.

Cardiff Council is expecting about 160 jobs at the local authority to go – many through non-replacement of vacancies.

There was some additional help for councils earlier this year when the UK government announced that it would increase its local government settlement by £600m, resulting in a consequential allocation of £25m for Welsh councils.

Cllr Weaver said: “In terms of the UK government, I think councils of all political stripes across all of the nations of the UK have been making the point publicly and vocally that we think there is a public services crisis, that we think the funding is woefully inadequate.

“I think the additional money that came during the consultation… I think that was in response to the lobbying that the LGA, the WLGA and COSLA in Scotland and all local authorities do to point out that we have a real crisis on our hands.

“It is not enough, but it was a step towards recognising that they had completely misjudged how damaging these cuts will be.

“Through the WLGA, through the LGA, through every opportunity we will get, we will speak about the need for local government to be properly funded and we will support our colleagues in England who are doing the same.”

Other proposals in the council budget include giving schools a 4.3% funding increase of £12.8m a year and giving children and adult social services an extra £26.3m in the next financial year.

Spending of £7.1m will be allocated to highways repairs, £6.7m will go towards the city’s parks and there will be £304m set aside for school delegated budgets next year.

As part of its budget, the council will also be reaffirming its commitment to its 2023/24-2027/28, 5-year capital spend programme.

Its largest commitments in that include a £716.3m investment in social housing, £234m on new school builds and £215.5m on developments like the international sports village and a new 15,000 capacity indoor arena planned for Cardiff Bay.

Cllr Weaver added: “We are presenting a balanced budget that does contain some positive, long term projects for growth… we are building for that future that the city deserves, but we are doing so with our hands increasingly tied behind our backs.

“Not everyone will agree with the service change cuts that we are going to make and not everyone will agree with our council tax choice.

“We are doing so to try and make sure that Cardiff does have that sustainable future, but it is an eye-watering challenge.”

Scrutiny of the council’s budget proposals will begin on Monday, February 26 with a meeting of the local authority’s community and adult services scrutiny committee.

If the proposals are agreed by cabinet members next week, they will go to a vote at a full council meeting on Thursday, March 7.