Carmarthenshire County Council is once again facing difficult decisions in order to balance its budget for 2024/25 as it seeks to bridge a budget gap of £22 million – before efficiency measures and Council Tax increases are taken into consideration.
With huge pressures on its services as a result of the stubbornly high level of inflation, the Council, along with all local authorities in Wales, is awaiting how much funding it will receive from the Welsh Government, through its Revenue Support Grant, before consulting with residents on its budget for the next financial year. Approximately, every 1% of the Revenue Support Grant amounts to £3 million of funding.
The County Council relies on the Revenue Support Grant for about 75% of its net income towards the day-to-day running of services, which include education, social care and highway maintenance. Most of its remaining income comes from the council tax.
Councillors and Officers are working together to develop proposals to balance the budget for 2024/25 but, after twelve years of reducing its expenditure and unless significant funding is provided by the UK and Welsh Governments, the Council must again propose cutting some of its services.
Carmarthenshire Council will soon be engaging with its residents on their opinions and ideas to achieve these savings before an official consultation is launched ahead of any final decisions.
This situation is not unique to Carmarthenshire, as all local authorities across Wales are facing big shortfalls in their budgets due to the global economic climate.
Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “We expect that the Welsh Government will tell us what the Revenue Support Grant provisional settlement will be in the week leading to Christmas. As a Cabinet, we will meet quickly after that with a view of going out to public consultation immediately afterwards. Whilst this is not ideal, residents will have the week after Christmas and throughout January to respond online and by other means.
“I must be honest with our residents, the option of ‘no cuts’ is not viable andlike every other council, we have to, by law, set a balanced budget.
“Last year, the County Council received a Revenue Support Grant increase of over 8% from the Welsh Government. While this was considered a good settlement, it wasn’t, however, enough to ease all the financial challenges to essential services – with a pressure of over £5.5m in Children’s Services alone.
“This year’s settlement is expected to be an increase of 3%, but with inflation being at 4.7% and pay settlements even higher, the Council is faced with a shortfall to its budget.
“Other examples of the financial pressures local authorities are facing include a 1.5% consolidated increased pay rise for teachers in September 2022, and again this year. This was fully funded by the Welsh Government in 2023/24, but it is not for next year. This equates to a cut of almost £3 million for the Council and amounts to 1% out of the expected 3% in the Welsh Government grant.
“Carmarthenshire County Council proudly pays the real living wage as recognition of the hard work done by staff on lower pay. Due to inflation, this has now raised to £12 an hour, meaning that the local authority has to find an additional two and a quarter million pounds to the budget.”
The Council will go out to consultation, to gather people’s opinions on its proposed plans to achieve savings, before agreeing on its 2024/25 budget. Further information will be published soon.