The Cabinet of Monmouthshire County Council will consider its final budget proposals for the forthcoming financial year at its meeting on 1 March. Having engaged in a very thorough engagement exercise throughout January, councillors, residents and a range of organisations have had the opportunity to share their views on ‘draft’ proposals.
Debate has been honest, open and thorough. The majority of people that have offered views have recognised just how difficult the financial situation is and that the medium term outlook looks challenging. They have recognised pressures such as public sector pay awards, energy and commodity prices alongside a significant increase in the demand for and complexity of social care and homelessness services. A £26 million financial gap has had to be managed through a combination of service savings, income increases, Council tax rises (5.95%) and one-off use of reserves.
Cabinet has recognised a number of key concerns that have come to the fore and is recommending a series of changes to its budget proposals.
a) Cabinet acknowledges the specific challenges regarding deliverability of savings within adult social care. £1million of savings will be delayed into 2024/25.
b) To limit the fee increase to attend before school clubs from £1 to £2 per day to only the first child, thus ensuring that families with more than one child are not disproportionately impacted.
c) To remove the proposed increase in the concessionary fee for home to school transport.
d) To remove the proposed £30 subscription fee for the Grass Routes Bus Service.
e) To remove a proposed increase in the licence fees for pavement cafés.
f) To remove a proposed reduction in opening hours in leisure centres during the summer months.
g) Opening hours of community hubs across the county will not be reduced.
h) The removal of a proposed saving to delete a post in the internal audit team resulting from feedback received from the Governance & Audit Committee and concern that the level of audit coverage will fall below acceptable levels.
i) £2 million (£0.5 million per annum in each of the next 4 years) of additional investment for pothole repairs to roads.
j) An additional £50,000 to allow for surveys and assessments to be undertaken of bridges across the public rights of way network.
Councillor Rachel Garrick, Cabinet Member for Resources said:
“This has been a very difficult process. With a financial challenge of this scale there just isn’t an easy way through. We have done our very best to come up with a set of proposals that are balanced and considerate of the impact on all of our residents. We are recommending a Council Tax increase of 5.95%. Whilst significantly below inflation, I recognise that this will be a challenge for some residents. We will be doing our upmost to ensure that people who are entitled to receive a discount benefit from that discount.”
The final budget will now be considered by Cabinet on 1 March. It will then be the subject of a full Council consideration on 2 March.