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Cardiff reveals budget proposals as it looks to plug £30.3m hole in finances

A budget which safeguards schools and education, supports social services, and protects the most vulnerable – has been revealed by Cardiff Council – as it faces up to a ‘public sector funding crisis’ affecting local authorities across the UK.

Rising costs and demand for services like social care has left the council with ‘extremely difficult decisions to make’ if it is to bridge a £30.3m gap in its budget.

Earlier in the year the council consulted citywide with residents who were asked for their views on several cost-saving proposals and money-generating ideas.

More than 9,000 people – a record amount – took part in the four-week consultation on the difficult choices ahead.

Now, following that consultation, the council is bringing forward proposals to safeguard key services while bridging the budget gap.

The proposals include setting any Council Tax rise at 6% – around £1.60 a week for a Band D household. This would be among the lowest council tax increases seen in Wales this year and will play a key part in maintaining some of the services residents asked to be protected or saved from cuts. These include:

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Giving schools a 4.3% uplift of £12.8m a year to help deal with rising costs matching Welsh Government’s funding increase to the council and removing any budget requirement for efficiency savings. Adults and Childrens Social Services will also receive an extra £26.3m in the coming financial year.

Other key proposals in the budget include:

  • No cuts to youth services
  • Spending £6.7m on the city’s parks, improving and protecting our Green Flag parks
  • Spending £7.1m on highways repairs
  • £308m for school delegated budgets next year

Some services will see increased charges, including:

  • Increasing the cost of hiring sports pitches – 10% increase
  • Increasing the price of burials (+10.6%) and the cremation service (+6.1%)
  • Increasing the cost of school meals by 10p, although this service will continue to be subsidised
  • Increasing some parking charges.

Several factors including inflation, energy prices, demand pressures, and expected pay increases for teachers, carers, and other public sector workers, mean the council’s budget for delivering day-to-day services like education, social care, refuse collection, parks and libraries is set to cost over £57m more in the next financial year (April 2024-March 2025) than it has this year.

Welsh Government’s 4.3% grant uplift for Cardiff – less than half of what the council received in the current financial year, will bring in an additional £27m, leaving the council with £30.3m to find. Doing so will require cuts to services, efficiency savings, and increases in charges.

Around 160 jobs at the council are expected to go – many through non-replacement of vacancies.

Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will now take a Budget Report on Thursday, February 29, which – If agreed by Cabinet – will then go to Full Council on March 7, for approval.

In the consultation residents were told two thirds (66.4%) of the council’s £804m annual budget was spent on schools and social services. Leaving just £176m to pay for other services like recycling and waste collections, highways, street lighting, libraries and hubs, and economic regeneration. Around £57m of the budget goes towards the council tax reduction scheme, rates relief and other levies paid to organisations such as the fire service; while £37m is set aside for capital finance to repay interest on Cardiff’s council-home-building scheme (plans for 4,000 new council homes) and other projects like new schools and the Cardiff Arena, which is designed to payback in full over its lease period.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “We are facing some really difficult decisions. Real-term cuts to funding over the past 14 years, inflation, and increasing demand pressures from children’s care, care for the elderly, and homelessness – especially in major cities like Cardiff – are driving up costs for councils everywhere.

“This picture is being seen across the UK – in England the picture is even worse than it is in Wales. I believe an honest conversation needs to be had with government about the true value of the public sector and local government to the people and communities we serve. If local government continues to be cut in this relentless fashion, then we will be caught in this spin-cycle until we are wrung out.”

Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, Cllr Chris Weaver, added: “At the outset of the consultation I said we were facing a public sector funding crisis and that it was important that residents shared their views with us on the budget proposals. The fact that a record number of people took part in the consultation shows that our residents are concerned about these relentless cuts to the services they rely on and the damage that is being done to the public sector, not just here, but across Wales and the rest of the UK.

“Without raising council tax, we just wouldn’t be able to safeguard some of the services that are important to our residents. This increase will be among the lowest in Wales, but it will bring in an extra £10.4m and will help us maintain the services our citizens have come to rely on. Equally importantly, anyone who is struggling to pay and is eligible will be able to access support through the Council Tax reduction scheme.

“Of course, this rise in council tax doesn’t mean we won’t have to make savings. In the next financial year, we will make £15.8m in back-office savings and other corporate measures, along with the £4.1m of frontline service savings based on the consultation. These savings come on top of the £250m we have cut from our budget over the past 10 years.

“Unfortunately, around 160 posts will be lost across the council. Last year around 172 roles were lost. We will always seek to make savings from efficiencies and changing the way we work ahead of changing frontline services, but the scale of the cut to our budget is too great to avoid some changes this year.

“I want residents to know we have listened to their views, and we are bringing forward proposals which will safeguard the services that mean the most to them – education, safeguarding the vulnerable, and social care.”

Proposals to move to three-weekly waste collections for black bin/bag waste are planned to come into place later in the year. Welsh Government’s preference is for three-weekly collections of this type of waste to improve recycling rates. If Cardiff fails to improve its recycling rate it could face a multi-million pounds Welsh Government fine. No final decision on Garden Waste charges has been made so these collections will remain free when they start again in the spring. A decision on whether charges will need to be introduced in future will be made later this year.

Cardiff Council will now bring forward the full set of budget proposals, but before that they will be scrutinised by a number of the council’s Scrutiny Committees on the week beginning Monday, February 26. A live stream of all the Scrutiny meetings on the Budget proposals will be accessible through the calendar of meetings which is available to view Monthly meetings calendar – February 2024 : Cardiff Council (moderngov.co.uk) Just click on the calendar, then on the individual committee meeting, then the agenda where you will find the web link for the live video stream.

The proposals will then go to Cabinet for approval on the afternoon of Thursday, February 29.

If agreed by Cabinet, Full Council will vote on the proposals on Thursday, March 7, from 4.30pm which will also be live streamed.

As part of the Budget the Council will be reaffirming its commitment to its 2023/24 -2027/28, 5-year Capital spend programme. This programme is designed to create jobs, build more council homes, and improve public transport options alongside a raft of other measures to improve the city.

It includes the following:

  • £716.3m investment in social housing including new council homes
  • £234m on new school builds
  • £129.8m to develop Cardiff Cross Rail, cycle routes, improve transport infrastructure, encourage active travel and sustainability, subject to grant funding
  • £41m investment in existing schools infrastructure
  • £32.7m investment in Highway infrastructure
  • £215.5mon economic development initiatives, including the international sports village and new Indoor Arena (which is primarily developer funded)
  • £47.3m for disabled adaptations to help people continue to live in their own homes
  • £34.9m to address flooding and coastal erosion
  • £19.9m investment in parks, playgrounds, open space & harbour infrastructure
  • £14.2m to support waste collection and recycling activity
  • £20.7m for neighbourhood improvements
  • £4.6m investment in leisure centres
  • £4.8m investment in Right Homes Right Support Strategy for children, children’s respite provision and gateway accommodation for young people

More than 9,000 residents – a record number – took part in Cardiff Council’s budget consultation.

Their views helped shaped the budget for 2024/25, including.

  • 81.6% agreed with closing the museum of Cardiff on one day a week
  • 81% agreed with the asset transfer of pitches and changing facilities
  • 78.1% supported finding partners to support Bute Park Nursery and Roath park Conservatory
  • 76.7% agreed with finding an alternative operator for Cardiff Riding School
  • 76.2% agreed with phasing the hourly charge for home care services
  • 69.3% agreed with removing hard copies of newspapers, magazines and journals
  • 67.7% agreed with prioritising school budgets
  • 67.1% agreed with charging for all bulky waste collections
  • 66.3% agreed with an increase in burial and cremation fees
  • 63.8% agreed with applying the Welsh Government cap for charges for home care services
  • 61.8% agreed with increasing fees for adults hiring sports pitches and changing facilities
  • 56.6% agreed with increasing the number of volunteers in Hubs and Libraries
  • 50.7% wanted bins to remain in residential areas.

Following consultation with residents some amendments to savings proposals were made, including but not limited to:

  • Raising Council Tax by 6% to help pay for services residents want
  • Street cleansing will be protected and bins in residential areas will be retained
  • The cost of hiring sports pitches to increase by 10% rather than 30%
  • Hubs/Libraries – hours to be reduced rather than closed for a day a week.
  • Community Park Rangers – to be reduced by 2 full time employees rather than 4. This will see the service have three more rangers than it had five years ago.
  • Increased fees for out of hours burial – to be set at 10% rather than full cost recovery
  • Limited cuts to Local Action Teams which help improve our housing estates environment – prioritising areas of need.
  • Increasing school meals by 10p rather than 30p

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