NEATH Port Talbot Council’s budget remains in a strong position in spite of the demands of responding to the Covid pandemic and emergencies such as the Skewen floods.

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Revenue Outturn and Reserves Position Statement for 2020/21 is to be presented to Cabinet on Wednesday, 2 June.

The report outlines how a combination of extraordinary financial support from the Welsh Government and careful budget management have impacted favourably on the closing financial position, both for the council and for schools in the county borough. This has enabled the council to stabilise its general reserves at £20m and schools have increased their reserves by £7.8m, with the remainder of the council’s specific reserves increasing by £12m.

The increases in reserves are:

  • £7.8m for schools to help them provide additional learning, catch-up for pupils and building maintenance;
  • £0.5m to support children with additional learning needs. Also to support music and leisure activities;
  • £3m into various Social Services reserves, including £676k to support vulnerable children, and children in the care system who are looking for families through adoption. There is also funding to support vulnerable adults, £918k to support elderly people, £250k to support people with disabilities who need care and £700k to support the social care workforce through digital technology;
  • £2.5m to the Corporate Contingency reserve to support future year priorities;
  • £2m for the new decarbonisation programme (DARE) reserve for investment over the next 2 years, to help the county borough take urgent action to help avoid the negative impacts of climate change;
  • £1.2m to improve digital services for the public and service users;
  • £1.3m to the Treasury Management Reserve to support City Deal projects in Neath Port Talbot, that will attract investment;
  • £1.1m to Environment reserves including Metal Box, which will generate new jobs and economic activity in the area, and investment in new vehicles to deliver council services;
  • £466k into the income generation reserve to provide seed funding for new income opportunities

Reserves are money set aside to help councils manage financial risks to local services and for example unforeseen emergencies. Councils have to have reserves by law.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the council has been involved in setting up a number of new services to support communities through the pandemic. These include NPT Safe & Well, that works with partners to connect people who need support with a local volunteer, community group or local service, and the Test Trace Protect Service, an essential element in tackling the pandemic by tracking and breaking chains of transmission of COVID-19.

In addition the Council has paid out over £50m to support businesses, carers and people on low incomes advised to self-isolate.

Cllr. Carol Clement-Williams, Cabinet spokesperson for Finance said: “Neath Port Talbot, like other councils, originally set its 2020-21 budget shortly before the pandemic hit, and the last year has been extraordinary in terms of managing the impacts of Covid19.

“We have undertaken a number of additional activities to respond to the Pandemic that had not been budgeted for. These include supporting the health service and residents through providing a Test Trace and Protect service, vaccination support, protecting vulnerable people, maintaining critical services, and providing additional payments to businesses, families and individuals. We have also made arrangements to enable many staff to work from home.

“Whilst the outlook remains challenging and there is still a high degree of uncertainty around the pandemic, our financial position will allow the Council to support recovery on a positive footing in every part of the county borough. Over the next few months we will begin one of the biggest and most important conversations we will ever have in Neath Port Talbot as part of our Recover Reset Renew project.

“During this we will be asking for views on how best we can support people and businesses as the economy opens up, build on the great community action we have seen across the county borough during the pandemic, encourage people to continue to be more active and play their part in protecting our environment and support our town centres. A crucial element of all of this will be the question of how we support our schools in the vitally important work they are doing with learners and families.”

Cabinet members will be asked on Wednesday to Note the 2020/21 financial outturn position, approve the additional transfers to and from reserves and

commission a report setting out available funds and proposals for Covid Recovery Investment.

A separate report on the Capital Programme, sets out how during Covid, the Council has also delivered £59m of capital investment to improve facilities across the County Borough. 

This includes progressing works to near completion at Cefn Saeson School, commencing works at the new Abbey Primary School and Phase 3 works at Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera, various other school improvements and provision of IT kit for teachers and learners, regeneration, drainage, flood improvements and disabled facility grants to enable people to remain to live at home. This has been an extraordinary achievement during many phases of lockdown.