ANOTHER TAX HIKE FOR CITY
CARDIFF’S LEADERS CONSIDER 4.3% COUNCIL TAX RISE AND SWINGEING CUTS TO SERVICES IN BID TO PLUG £35M BUDGET GAP
RAISING council tax, increasing charges for burials and funding cuts to services are some of the ways Cardiff council is looking to plug a £35.2m budget gap next year.
The council is also looking to rent out the New Theatre to a theatre company and to reduce subsidies for major events in Cardiff in its latest plans to balance the books.
Council tax could rise by 4.3% under the plan, the growth of schools funding could be capped and council-owned parks facilities could be transferred to sports groups as part of ways to raise the cash needed.
But the authority is warning it needs to make £19.4m in savings – with services such as highways, waste and parks bearing the brunt. It comes after the council received a 0.4% increase in funding this year – just £1.6m – while it needs to find £36.8m to maintain front-line services at current levels.
The council, which faces a funding gap totalling £92.9m over the next three years, will set out its proposals for the 2019/20 budget in a public consultation launched next week. Councillor Chris Weaver, cabinet member for finance, said despite claims from Westminster, austerity is far from over.
He said: “We’re a fast growing city. The pressures that are coming onto our services are huge. They are not being funded by the settlements we’re getting.
“I don’t think there’s any council in Wales that are considering that they can close the funding gap without a rise in council tax. Council tax only raises a fraction of the amount of money we need to close the gap.”
He added: “I worry about the state of local government across the country. I think we’re
heading down a very dangerous and unpleasant route.
“I don’t think people in government in Westminster fully understand the consequences they are having on people’s lives. I really worry. We could do significant damage to this city if this continues.”
The amount council tax is increasing by could change following the final budget settlement in December.
A consultation into Cardiff council’s 2019/20 budget will run from Friday, November 16, until January 2.
Asked whether people will feel they could be paying more council tax for fewer services, Cllr Weaver said: “I understand why people may feel that. I really emphasise the point that the majority of our funding doesn’t come from council tax.
“We’re constantly striving to improve our performance where we can. Cardiff is prepared as best we can for this budget.”
Schools and social services would get a cash increase in the proposed 2019/20 budget, while all other services would see cash funding cuts.
Budgets for highways, waste, parks, back office staff and other services will bear 70% of the cuts needed.
But savings would need to be made in all departments across the council in a bid to make services more efficient. Schools and social services – areas where demand continues to grow – would take up £397m of the council’s £609m budget.
Next year, the council is proposing to give schools an additional £10.2m – but this would only count for 70% of their growing cost pressures – a £3.8m real term cut overall. Councillor Weaver said: “Different schools face different funding pressures. Some will be seeing their budgets increase, some will decrease. “Overall schools reserves have increased. Part of this will be looking at reserves. My ideal is everyone is getting more money, but we’re not living in that world. We’re protecting schools the best we can.”
The council wants to help open five new residential children’s homes in 2019, and also launch a new fostering service, so more looked-after children can be cared for in Cardiff – saving £1.5m of £6m efficiencies being planned in social services. Elsewhere, the council believes it can save £404,000 by passing on the running of the New Theatre to a private theatre tenant.
Cremation costs would increase from £560 to £640, and the costs of burials from £660 to £760, saving the council a further £301,000.
Customer services would become increasingly automated, saving £300,000. The council would also save £245,000 by reducing its subsidies of major events.
New attractions at Cardiff Castle, such as Dr Who Film Tours, could earn an extra £122,000 for the council.
Council-owned sports facilities such as changing rooms could also be passed on to clubs and other organisations, saving £25,000.
Littering fines would also be raised from £80 to £100.
Under the proposals, the economic development department of the council faces £3.2m savings targets, planning transport and environment would need to shed £4.2m, corporate resources would need to find £2.9m savings, housing and communities would need to save £868,000, while governance and legal services would need to save £372,000.
It all means around 75 jobs at the council could face being made redundant – the council hopes some of these role losses can be covered through voluntary redundancy or non-replacement of vacant posts.
Raising council tax, using £2.5m of reserves and a £4m financial resilience mechanism – money the council put aside to deal with uncertain funding levels from Welsh Government –and capping schools growth would bridge £15.8m of the funding gap.
The £19.4m savings target would be made up of £2m in income generation, £2.5m by working with other public sector bodies to save money, almost £8m on streamlining business processes, £3.4m on reviewing external spending and £3.5m from more effective prevention and early intervention measures.
I really emphasise the point that the majority of our funding doesn’t come from council tax.
Councillor Chris Weaver
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The New Theatre could be rented out to a theatre company
The council is proposing to give schools an extra £10.2m
Burial and cremation costs could also see increases
The authority is warning it needs to make £19.4m in savings – with services such as highways, waste and parks bearing the brunt