It was welcome news to find that the Council has received confirmation from Welsh Government that it will receive a 3.9% increase in its core funding next year, ahead of the 3.8% average for Wales and where councils across Wales had settlements ranging from increases of between 2.0% and 5.6%. This goes some way in allowing the Council to accommodate a range of significant non-COVID pressures affecting Council services next year and to lessen the need for the Council to draw on its limited one-off reserves to support the budget.
Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “I am pleased that the role of local government in this extraordinary year has been recognised by Welsh Government. The Council’s services continue to be under continued and increasing pressure, even beyond the cost increases and income shortfalls resulting from the pandemic. The above average increase will at the very least give the Council some additional flexibility to respond to the unprecedented strain on the Council’s finances and the choices it makes when setting the budget for next year.
Alongside the settlement announcement and the COVID funding that the Council has successfully claimed this year already there has been and will be significant consequences from UK Government funding announcements, some of which remains to be allocated within the Welsh Government’s budget. It is important that the real pressures in local government are addressed and we will continue to make this case with Ministers during the coming weeks. Without such funding the Council will again be left in a position of having to take hard and difficult decisions and regardless of the good news offered by the provisional settlement.”
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “The provisional settlement has offered a potential lifeline to the Council and in avoiding it needing to make difficult, immediate and short-term decisions that would impact on its frontline services. Whilst it is understandable given the global and national economic uncertainty that UK Government has only allowed Welsh Government to provide a one-year funding outlook this will continue to make medium-term financial planning difficult.
“We hope that this above average increase is not short lived and given that the Council has historically and to date been the worst funded Council in Wales. In fact the Council remains firmly rooted to the bottom of the table for the amount of funding per capita it receives from Welsh Government ”
The Council’s draft budget proposals will be considered by its Cabinet at a meeting on the 20th January 2021 and will then be released for public consultation. Given the current pandemic and the restrictions that will continue into the New Year the Council will be looking to engage with key stakeholders and the public through its website and virtual budget consultation events. Further information will be provided on the Council’s website in the New Year.