Newport City Council’s cabinet will next week consider its budget for 2024/25 and how services will be provided in the face of increasing demands and challenging funds.
At the meeting on Wednesday 10 January, a number of proposals will be considered in detail before the cabinet agrees which will go out for public consultation.
Savings of around £5 million need to be found to deliver a balanced budget.
As well as proposed savings, cabinet will also consider areas that will receive additional investment.
These include priority areas including social care, homeless provision and schools.
The demand for social care for both adults and children continues to rise, so £3million is proposed to help manage that demand and provide support for some of our most vulnerable residents.
Likewise, homelessness and the demand for temporary accommodation continues to rise, so an extra £600,000 has been proposed to support the service.
Both of these areas are being considered as part of the council’s transformation programme which aims to change the way we do things for the benefit of residents. These investments will help provide the vital services while the work is completed to reshape them for the long term.
The budget also recognises the pressure on schools and has prioritised significant funds for staff pay, increasing demand resulting from rising pupil numbers, and for support for those with additional learning needs.
If agreed at the cabinet meeting, residents will be asked their views on a proposed council tax rise of 8.5 per cent.
Council tax in Newport is currently 10 per cent below the Welsh average, so even with a rise Newport would still be one of the lowest rates.
Over half of Newport properties are banded A to C, so most households would see an increase of between £1.50 and £2.01 per week.
However, the money raised through council tax accounts for less than one quarter of the council’s overall budget. For every one per cent the council tax is increased by, an additional £710,000 is raised.
The majority of the council’s funding comes from the Welsh government, via the revenue support grant. The draft amount for Newport was announced just before Christmas, but the true impact of a range of cuts relating to funding in areas including homelessness, social care, school costs and community support, is yet to be determined.
Councillor Jane Mudd, Leader of Newport City Council, said: “Although Newport received the highest percentage increase of Welsh councils, in real terms we are still well behind where we need to be.
“Newport’s population has grown considerably and rapidly over recent years, and although we are pleased that we are now getting our rightful share of the Welsh government grant, taking into consideration that growth, the additional pressure it puts on all services significantly outweighs the funding available to us.
“The cost of providing services continues to go up in the same way that everyone’s cost of living has risen. And at the same time, more people are accessing those services, increasing demand.
“We are also facing sizeable cuts to many of the grants we receive and are yet to fully understand the impact of these reductions, but it is certain to be substantial.
“For years, the UK government has underfunded local government. Since the start of austerity, councils in Wales have lost over £1billion from their budgets.
“We’re calling on the UK government to increase the local government settlement to Welsh government in its March statement to make more money available to councils to spend on vital services. The current draft settlement provides only £305 million extra for the Welsh government over a two year period.
“This means Welsh government has around £160 million next year to meet all of the pressures in the NHS, local government all other services it provides for the people of Wales.
“The Welsh government’s draft settlement does not reverse the extreme pressure on services or eliminate the gap between our available budget and the actual cost of delivering services. But it does give us some opportunity to consider how we deliver a balanced budget.
“The council provides over 800 services for approximately 160,000 people living in more than 65,000 households. Our main aim, as always, is to ensure the most fundamental of services are maintained for residents and that we can support those that need an extra helping hand.
“I urge everyone to take the opportunity to have their say on what is important to them as part of the public consultation and help my cabinet and I to make to most informed decisions for the people of Newport.”
Following the cabinet meeting on 10 January, the public consultation will run from 11 January until 9 February at www.newport.gov.uk/haveyoursay
All representations will be considered and cabinet will meet again on 14 February when they will make their final recommendations on the overall budget for 2024/25.