THE COST of living crisis is challenging for everyone – including the council. Monmouthshire County Council is facing unprecedented cost pressures of £26 million.
Energy costs, inflation and price rises, pay awards and rising interest rates are all contributing factors. The cabinet will meet on January 18 to agree a strategy to address these pressures. It will include a higher than expected funding boost from Welsh Government, service changes, staffing efficiencies, raising of fees and charges, and increasing the level of council tax.
Monmouthshire’s communities will be invited to share their views on these possible changes in an open consultation process that will start on Wednesday, January 18 and run until noon on Thursday, February 16.
Cllr. Mary Ann Brocklesby, Leader said: “In this budget we’re determined to do all we can to support our communities during a cost of living crisis despite the financial challenges the council is facing.
“This is a budget that still delivers on our core priorities. Our draft Community and Corporate plan has shaped our draft budget proposals. Our budget proposals are offering children the best possible start in life with more money for schools and for those requiring additional service and support. We will continue to support our older residents to retain their independence. We will ensure that the most vulnerable people in our communities are supported whilst protecting our leisure centres and libraries, recognising their important role in the wellbeing of our communities.
“Our commitment to modernising our schools remains as does our intent to work towards a low carbon Monmouthshire through continued investment in cycle routes, roads, and footpaths, and improved broadband.
“It’s also a budget that looks to the future and positions the council to take on some of the biggest challenges facing our county and society more generally. Our focus is on making sure Monmouthshire is:
- A fair place to live where the effects of inequality and poverty have been reduced
- A green place to live and work with reduced carbon emissions, making a positive contribution to addressing the climate and nature emergency
- A thriving and ambitious place, full of hope and enterprise
- A safe place to live where people have a home and community where they feel secure
- A connected place where people feel part of a community, are valued and connected
- A learning place where everybody has the opportunity to reach their potential.”
Cllr. Rachel Garrick, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “We are pleased that the Welsh Government has acknowledged the challenges faced by local authorities in Wales. Notwithstanding the fact that Welsh Government has not received sufficient funding from UK Government to allow it to meet the full extent of the financial challenges facing public services at this time, a 9.3% increase in our settlement is very welcome and more than we expected – it means that we have been able to better protect important services like social care and school budgets.
“Monmouthshire continues to be more reliant on council tax income than any other council in Wales to meet the needs of communities. Given the scale of the challenge it is inevitable that council tax will need to rise, although at a rate well below inflation. A council tax increase of 5.95% is proposed for 2023-2024. Council tax is a key source of income that allows the council to sustain services that meet the needs of residents and in particular those who are most vulnerable.
“The council tax reduction scheme, which offers mitigation for those on low incomes and those in receipt of benefits, will still be in place and single person households are also eligible for a 25% reduction on council tax.
“Most fees and charges will increase. Charges in areas such as domiciliary and residential care will continue to be means tested and capped to limit the impact on those with the lowest incomes.
“The council continues to lead by example in committing to pay all staff in line with the Real Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation. For 2023-2024 the intention is to extend this to all of our commissioned care settings. Everyone delivering paid care in Monmouthshire should be fairly rewarded.”
Residents are encouraged to offer their views on the proposals, which will be available from Wednesday, January 18 at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2023-2024/.
Face-to-face budget consultation events are taking place across Monmouthshire as follows:
- Monday, January 23, 6pm. Caldicot Hub, Woodstock Way, Caldicot
- Tuesday, January 24 , 6pm. Chepstow Hub, Manor Way, Chepstow
- Wednesday, January 25 , 6pm. Usk Hub, 35 Maryport St, Usk
- Thursday, January 26, 6pm. Shire Hall, Monmouth
- Tuesday, January 31, 6pm. Magor CIW Primary School, Magor
- Tuesday, February 7, 6pm, Abergavenny Hub, Abergavenny
In addition, two online budget sessions are taking place on Thursday, February 2, at 10am and 6pm. Register to take part in the virtual events via the budget page on the council’s website and an email will be sent with a link to join the event. You can pre-submit your questions or raise them during the session. For those unable to join the events, the online sessions will be uploaded to the website to watch after the event.
As part of the consultation process, which is open until noon on February 16, 2023, residents are also being asked to share their thoughts via a feedback survey on the budget proposals, which will be found alongside all the proposals at Budget 2023-2024 – Monmouthshire.
“These are draft proposals and we want to know your views. So please visit our website from January 18 and have your say,” added Cllr. Brocklesby.