Monmouthshire County Council will consider its budget for next year at its meeting on Thursday, 1st March. Another difficult settlement from Wales Government (a reduction from the current year) accentuates the difficulties for the county which already receives the lowest level of funding by some distance of any part of Wales.
The proposed budget sees a year on year increase of £500,000 in funding for schools and an allocation of £400,000 to bring forward investment in digital technology at King Henry VIII Comprehensive and Chepstow School, recognising that Caldicot and Monmouth’s secondary schools have seen similar investments as part of their new builds.
Another headline investment sees an additional £300,000 made available to keep pace with the demand for household adaptations to enable elderly and disabled people to live safely in their own home. Over and above this, there is an increase of £1.65m to recognise pressures within the children and adult social care budgets largely driven by more children entering the care system.
Previous policy commitments in areas such as waste management to ensure that rates of re-use and recycling continue to rise are fully funded. In addition, the council continues to meet the full cost of the real living wage and in doing so cements its position as an ethical, socially aware employer. The intention to build a new secondary school in Abergavenny and to complete the programme of building community hubs in the five principal towns is also confirmed as is an expectation to spend c. £6.2m on maintaining roads and pavements.
There will be no reductions in the frequency of grass cutting across the county and blue badge holders will not be charged for parking in council car parks.
The council will receive a recommendation that includes a 4.95% increase in council tax and brings forward increases in charges in areas such as the price of a school meal.
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “Setting a budget for an organisation as complex as Monmouthshire County Council is not straightforward. Everything that we do is important and making choices which involve reductions is not straightforward. We have developed a budget strategy which will see the priorities that were set out in our recently published Corporate Plan delivered. We are not proposing any major service closures or withdrawals. We have tried to be balanced in our considerations and set a direction that is good for the whole county and reflects the many, sometimes conflicting, priorities of citizens. I’m sure there will be strong views on this budget and that is part of democracy, but the public can be assured that the council is doing its best in difficult circumstances to promote the ongoing sustainability and resilience of the whole county.”