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Politics Rhondda Cynon Taf South Wales

Public consultation on proposed increases to council fees and charges will start

COUNCILLORS have agreed to consult on proposed increases to council fees and charges like school meal prices and leisure membership in Rhondda Cynon Taf for next year.

A standard 5% increase is part of the proposals which cabinet members agreed to consult the public on at a meeting on Monday, January 23.

It would see the council absorbing the implications of not increasing them in line with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) rate of inflation.

But a number of areas will get their own treatment under the proposals and the the estimated overall impact of the following proposals would generate additional income of £750,000 in a full year, the report said.

Car parking charges

Car parking charges are proposed to be frozen in Aberdare and Pontypridd in 2023/2024.

The council cut car park charges from April, 2017, as part of a wider strategy to encourage visitors to town centres and it has kept charges at the same level since this time.

In all town centres across RCT, other than Aberdare and Pontypridd, parking is already free.

Taxi licences 

For taxi licences, it is proposed that licence fees continue to be frozen for 2023/24 to support the sector in its recovery from the pandemic.

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Fee and charges levels have been increased for hackney carriage and private hire licences in line with the council’s annual fees and charges review, with the exception of the current year (2022/23) where licence fees were frozen.

Cinema entrance fees

It is proposed that cinema entrance fees are frozen for the forthcoming year to help support the council’s offer located in the local communities of Rhondda Cynon Taf, remaining competitive with the prices in the commercial sector, the report said.

Cinema entrance fees have been increased as part of the council’s annual fees and charges review for the past three years (2020/21 to 2022/23).

School meal prices

For school meal prices in both primary and secondary schools, the proposal is that the price of a primary school meal and free school meal value of a secondary school meal both increase by £0.15 to £2.70 and £2.95 respectively, noting that from April, 2023, the roll-out of universal free school meals will cover learners within nursery, reception and Year 1 and Year 2 groups.

Cabinet decided to freeze school meal prices for the previous two financial years, 2021/22 and 2022/23, with the primary school meal price being £2.55 and the free school meal value of a secondary school meal being £2.80.

The report said that comparing school meal prices across council areas in Wales, based on the latest information available, 2022/23 prices ranged between £2.10 and £2.85 for primary schools and £2.35 and £3.05 for secondary schools.

Leisure membership

On leisure centre membership, from April, 2023, it is proposed that a 50p increase is applied to the Leisure for Life membership, taking the adult monthly price (direct debit 12-month commitment) from £37 to £37.50, with a consistent approach to price uplifts applied to other Leisure for Life memberships, for example, the Leisure for Life annual membership increased by £5 per year (10 months with a 50p per month increase)

“Comparison with other areas is not informative due to the differing level of services offered and the differing range of facilities in place,” the report said.

It added that previous decisions taken by cabinet had seen the council’s Leisure for Life membership price frozen since January, 2018, as part of an on-going strategy to provide high quality leisure facilities at affordable prices across the county borough.

Cremation and burial services

For bereavement services such as burial and cremation fees, the proposal is that these are increased by 10% from April, 2023 so a cremation fee would be £812.90 compared to the 2022/23 price of £739.00 and a burial fee (grave purchase fee and interment fee)  would be £2,116.40 compared to the 2022/23 price of £1,924.00.

The report said that when comparing bereavement fee prices with neighbouring local authorities and private sector providers, 2022/23 cremation fees ranged from £630.50 to £850.00 and burial fees range from £1,334.00 to £2,130.00.

A 25% reduction will be applied to all bereavement fees incurred by families of deceased war veterans and service men and women who live in Rhondda Cynon Taf and the council continues to offer a “direct/simplicity” cremation at a reduced fee.

Pontypridd Lido, Rhondda Heritage Park and Dare Valley Country Park

In respect of the Lido, it is proposed that the cost of adult entry admission is £3 from April, 2023, compared to the current price of £2, with free entrance continuing for under 16 and a price freeze for paid activities.

For Rhondda Heritage Park, the adult price would go up from £7.95 to £9.95 and the child price from £5.85 to £6.75. Concessions would increase from £6.35 to £6.75, a group Mint and Mine price from £10 to £11 and the price for a family of four with two adults and two children would increase from £20 to £28.40.

In relation to Dare Valley Country Park (caravan pitch charge), it is proposed that the price from April, 2023, is increased to £28 compared to the current price of £21.80.

Admission prices at both Rhondda Heritage Park and Lido (Pontypridd) have been frozen since 2019/20.

The report said that the “proposals would continue to position the Rhondda Heritage Park, Lido (Pontypridd) and Dare Valley Country Park (caravan pitch charge) as some of the lowest and competitively priced attractions” compared to those in neighbouring areas.

Day centre meals

The day centre meal price was frozen for the current year (2022/23) but it is proposed that the meal price is increased by 50p from April, 2023, from £4.05 to £4.55.

Home care and day centre services

The proposal for home care and day centre services from April, 2023, is that the hourly rate charge for home care will be £20 and the daily charge for day centre provision will be £20.

The current charges for home care and day centre services are £17 per hour and £17 per day respectively, the level of charges being held at their current rates since 2014.

During this period, the cost of providing such services was said to have increased due to pay and price inflation and more specifically the requirement for care providers to pay a minimum of real living wage to all social care workers, with the aim of the council being to not, as far as possible, pass additional costs on to people who used the services, the report said.

People who access non-residential care services provided by the council are subject to a means tested financial assessment to make sure that, after taking into account the contribution made towards the cost of care services by the person using the service, they will have at least a minimum income level remaining.

The report said no-one would pay more than the current maximum charge of £100 per week and any increase would take account of their ability to pay based on each person’s financial circumstances.

Bulky waste collections

The council’s bulky waste collection service offers a collection of up to three items for £12.75.

The proposal is that from April, 2023, the price for the collection of up to three items is £17.

In 2022/23, prices in neighbouring authority areas range from £16.64 to £25.

Residential permits

It is proposed that residential annual permit charges are revised to £12 for a first permit, £17.50 for a second permit and £60 for any following additional permits.

These charges have been consistently held for a number of years at £10 for the first permit, £15 for the second permit (if applicable) and £50 for any following additional permits (if capacity allows).

Registrars (non-statutory)

After a review of the range of non-statutory registrar services such as marriage and civil partnership fees at an approved premises and associated costs, a price increase of 10% is proposed for such services.

Building regulations

The proposal is for building regulation fees to be increased by 20%. The council charges fees to ensure building regulations standards are met and the fees range from just under £100 and can be in excess of £15,000 for large schemes such as new schools.

The fees are locally determined and have been held at this level since November, 2015.

A comparison of the most common fee received during 2021/22 with the other 10 South East Wales local authorities (such as single storey extensions less than 10 metres squared, erection/extension of a garage less than 100 metres squared or conversion of a garage to a habitable room) showed that the Rhondda Cynon Taf’s 2022/23 fee was £288.69 compared to an average across the other 10 local authorities of £346.97.

The proposed increase take this comparison and forecasted inflationary cost increases in 2023/24 into account.

Non-statutory food export health certificates

Further to a review of the costs associated with the provision of non-Statutory Food Export Health Certificates, to enable food to be exported by companies in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the proposed price is £35.75, which is an increase from the current price of £32.50.

The recommendation to cabinet is that the proposals are consulted on through phase two of the council’s 2023/24 budget consultation with the results reported back to cabinet for consideration as part of putting together a budget strategy for next year.

The view from cabinet members

Councillor Christina Leyshon, cabinet member for climate change and corporate services said: “Fees and charges income is a critical part of our funding arrangements for many of our services.”

She said the proposals intend to insure a continued provision of a comprehensive range of quality services at affordable prices for residents.

Councillor Andrew Morgan, leader of the council, said he thinks it’s a fair way of looking at their fees and charges as in a number of areas the council will be picking up the shortfall adding that it’s right to try to not pass on all the increased costs to residents.

He added that although they’re looking at increases in areas like school meals prices, it’s still well below the cost of inflation.

He said: “Hopefully the public will see that at least we are trying to absorb as much of the pressure as possible and only passing on a small amount to the residents.”

He said many of their prices are competitive with other councils who will be reviewing their fees and charges too.