Monmouthshire County Council has today (11th March 2021) set a budget for the forthcoming financial year. Never an easy process. The year ahead will be our most challenging as we work with communities to steer a way forward in the aftermath of a year of great tragedy. The Council will prioritise its spending on issues which will help people live their lives in the way they choose. We will protect services for the most vulnerable, ensure schools are well placed to support their learners as they return to school and ensure that the increasing demand in adult social care and children’s services can be met. The budget recommits the council to an agenda focussed on reducing inequality within and between our communities. As we exit the current stages of the pandemic we will stay vigilant and be ready to respond should circumstances take a turn for the worse.
Following feedback from residents on initial proposals published on 20th January 2021, gathered over the full consultation period, the council has amended its proposals and those have been confirmed today.
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “I would like to thank every resident who has shared their feedback with us. We have listened to you. The subsequent changes to the budget are based on what you’ve told us matters to you. In particular, concerns that that the proposed 4.95% rise in council tax could impact upon those most financially disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the lockdown periods that have accompanied it. As a result, I can confirm that the coming year’s council tax increase will reduce to 3.89%. Our approach continues to be to change, improve and adapt our services rather than to close them down. This budget shows ambition for the county in the face of the most challenging of times.”
Some of the major investments agreed by council today are:
- To protect schools by fully funding all pay and pension increases
- To recognise social care pressures; primarily around our ageing population, adults with disabilities and an increasing number of looked-after children
- To recognise demand-led pressures with children with additional learning needs
- To honour all national pay awards and continue its position to set a minimum wage in line with the Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation, and that also applies to apprenticeship roles within the council.
- To increase investment into flood alleviation schemes over next year and the medium term.
- The creation of a £1m capital funding to support grant applications that require a council contribution, most notably in relation to significant Active Travel bids that have recently submitted to Welsh Government
- To spend an additional £0.8 million on highways maintenance schemes.
- To continue work on a new 3-18 school in Abergavenny.
- To deliver a replacement for Severn View residential home.
- To push on with feasibility works on new transport infrastructure in and around Chepstow.
- To continue with plans to regenerate the centre of Caldicot.
Councillor Murphy continued: “A range of service changes and cost reductions have already taken place in the current financial year, including the closure of Mounton House School, albeit with the services being continued elsewhere, the closure of Usk Household Waste and Recycling Centre and an increase in charges for garden waste collection.”
Monmouthshire County Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “The final settlement from Welsh Government is better than we initially feared, but does not fully compensate for the significant service pressures the council is continuing to face. The medium term outlook is uncertain and we look to Welsh Government to continue to provide specific financial support to meet extraordinary costs associated with responding to the COVID pandemic and extending this support towards supporting and building fairer communities and businesses. Local government has a vital role to play in this effort and Monmouthshire County Council will rise to this challenge.
“Once again we are in the position of being the lowest funded council in Wales by a country mile. The current Welsh system of sharing out money is just unfair and discriminates against Monmouthshire residents. We continue to deliver some of the best services in Wales but are having to deliver them on a shoestring. This is not a sustainable way forward for rural, geographically large counties like ours and we will not give up in our call for Wales Government to review how they share out the money.
“Significant uncertainties remain and we call on Welsh Government to provide clarity on our funding going forward into 2022/23 and beyond. Local government should not be seen as the poor partner in the wider public sector family. It plays a vital role alongside the NHS in Wales, keeping people safe through these most testing of times. We ask nothing more than this to be recognised,” said Cllr. Fox.
For further information regarding this year’s budget visit monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2021-2022