CARDIFF Council has voted to increase council tax, seek an alternative operator for St David’s Hall and increase the cost of school meals as part of its budget.
Councillors debated various potential cuts, savings and spending for hours at City Hall on Thursday, March 9.
The two main opposition groups at the council put forward their own alternative budgets, with the Conservatives calling for a council tax freeze and the Liberal Democrats advocating for the Cardiff Bay arena plans to be shelved.
However, it was the original budget proposals agreed on by Cardiff Council’s cabinet over a week ago that ended up being voted through.
The council’s budget for 2023/24 will see major changes to the lives of people across Cardiff, from increases to the cost of school bus passes, car parking and the use of sports pitches to changes to recycling centres.
It is hoped that the changes will help the council bridge a budget gap of £24 million, which has been brought about by spiralling inflation, increased demand on services and lower than anticipated income levels.
Here is a closer look at what the budget approval means for the city.
St David’s Hall
With the budget now voted through, Cardiff Council will continue to focus on looking for a new operator for St David’s Hall.
The authority is currently in discussion with Academy Music Group (AMG) over a potential deal which would see the major events company take on the running of the concert hall.
If the deal goes ahead, the takeover will free the council from spending over £1 million on running St David’s Hall.
As part of the deal, AMG would also take on the building’s eye-watering repairs bill which is into the millions of pounds.
However, the topic has proved to be a controversial one, with some people fearing that a takeover could lead to job losses and have an impact on the venue’s classical music programme, despite assurances from Cardiff Council that this will not be the case.
There are other concerns too, like AMG’s proposal to make changes to the seating in the building which some people fear could have an impact on the it’s world-class acoustics.
Again, the council has attempted to alay these concerns by saying that Sandy Brown, the architects of St David’s Hall, have told them that the proposed alterations “should have no noticeable impact on acoustic quality”.
After a contract has been written up by the council, a voluntary ex-ante transparency (VEAT) notice will then be published.
A VEAT notice is used to publish a commercial intention to the wider market. This allows competitors to come forward with a challenge to the proposal, which would lead to a procurement process.
Council tax in Cardiff will be going up by 3.95%.
This will see residents living in band D properties in areas other than Lisvane, Pentyrch, Radyr, St Fagans, Old St Mellons and Tongwynlais having to pay £1,387.47 for the year.
With the added Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) precept of £324.47, this figure goes up to £1,711.94 for the year.
The PCC precept is the amount of money taken out of council tax to pay for policing in the area.
People in Pentyrch will have to pay the most out of those living in band D properties across Cardiff.
With the PCC precept added on, they will have to pay £1,764.54 in council tax for the year.
Most of the council’s budget – about 74% of it – comes from a Welsh Government grant.
The rest of it comes from council tax. About two thirds of the council’s budget is spent on social services and schools.
Schools and education
As part of the council’s budget, schools will receive an extra £25 million a year to help deal with rising costs.
However, the cost of school meals is set to go up. Initially, the council were looking at a 10% increase due to rising food costs. In the end, the authority settled on a 5% rise.
This means the cost per meal for primary school pupils will be £2.85. For secondary school pupils the charge per meal will be £3.30.
The council said they will continue to provide a subsidy of this service for all of their schools.
School transport bus passes will go up in cost by 12.50%. This means the cost for a pass will increase from £400 to £450.
Adults and children’s social services will receive an extra £23 million from Cardiff Council for 2023/24.
The charge for non-residential care services in Cardiff will remain at the maximum charge set by the Welsh Government, which is £100 per week. Actual charges will be subject to means testing.
Cardiff Council will also transition to providing more of its internal supported living services through the third sector.
A council report states: “Due to their size these providers can offer a wide range of additional value and best practice in provision.”
Vacant posts at the council’s hubs will be got rid of and replaced by volunteers.
A council report shows that 4.5 full-time equivalent posts will be deleted.
One potential saving that the council was looking at when it launched its budget proposal in December 2022 was changing operating hours at household waste recycling centres.
Instead of doing this, the council will now look to close its recycling centres for one day of the week.
One council official said at a meeting last month that the authority doesn’t have firm proposals yet, but it is looking at closing Bessemer Close and Lamby Way on alternative days so that at least one centre will be kept open when the other isn’t.
Assistant director for street scene at the council, Matthew Wakelam, said: “So, we will be closing Lamby Way, say on a Tuesday and Bessemer on a Wednesday.”
He later added: “We are picking the low use days, which are the Tuesday and the Wednesday.
“We are leaving the Monday because of the bank holidays, but we are keeping it flexible at the moment because we have got to get the workforce to change their shift patterns.”
A new £5 booking charge for bulky waste collections will also be introduced.
This is intended to reduce the number of incidents whereby people ask for bulky waste to be collected, but fail to leave it outside their property for collection.
Parking permits are set to go up in price, with the cost of first permits proposed to go from £7.50 to £24 and second permits from £30 to £54.
City centre parking will go up from £15 to £20 and the cost of major event park and ride services will go from £10 to £12.
The cost of using council-owned sports pitches and park facilities is set to go up as well.
As part of the council’s budget for this year, fees and charges for the use of these will increase by 10%.
Individual fees and charges will be dependant on the particular sport set to be played on the pitch.
St David’s Hall is not the only place where the council were looking at implementing an alternative operating model.
Plans will now progress to seek an external partner to run the Cardiff International White Water centre in Grangetown.
The council’s plan is to integrate the operation of the centre into a wider arrangement for the operation of all leisure facilities on the International Sports Village (ISV) development.
Plans to move the Museum of Cardiff out of its current home at the Old Library on The Hayes and turn it into a mobile attraction were not taken forward.