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

South Wales Echo - - Front Page - MATT DISCOMBE Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter echo.news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

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

WHAT DO YOU THINK? EMAIL ECLETTERS@ WALESON­LINE.CO.UK

The New Theatre could be rented out to a theatre com­pany

The coun­cil is propos­ing to give schools an ex­tra £10.2m

PETER BOLTER/MATTHEW HOR­WOOD

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

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