Residents’ priorities reflected as Council sets its budget
Monmouthshire County Council has set out its budget for the year ahead in the most challenging of circumstances. The pandemic has had a far reaching impact on all aspects of society, with inflation running ahead of itself for the first time in a decade, most people are worried about the price of food and fuel, and now conflict is raging in Europe and in other parts of the world. The gaps between those with more than they need and those with too little to live a decent life are growing. Whilst Monmouthshire is a tiny place when viewed through these national and international optics, it is the place we all call home and this budget is important; it really matters.
Cllr Richard John, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “In setting the budget for 2022/23 we have chosen to invest in the things that matter most to the public. We want the best for your children, we want the best for those that are frail and vulnerable, we want the best for those that don’t have a place to call home and we must do more to tackle climate change if we are to have a planet at all. There never has been and never will be enough money to do everything we would like to do so we can but do our best on your behalf.”
The budget put into place includes a wide range of investment with £1.6m more into our schools; £1.8m more into children in the care system; £2m to ensure nobody has to sleep outdoors; £2.2m into the care of older members of our community; £0.8m into making sure the county is as clean as it can be and £1.8m into the maintenance of roads, pavements and other highways infrastructure.
This year’s budget delivers a new 3-19 school for Abergavenny and increases Welsh medium provision for primary children across Monmouthshire. It will also help the county move towards 70% of all the waste that is produced being reused or recycled. It also commits to ensuring everyone that the council employs directly continue to be paid at least the real living wage and this commitment will extend to every social care setting that the council commissions services from.
Cllr. Phil Murphy, cabinet member for Resources added: “This budget embeds a commitment to use our purchasing power in an ethical way with goods sourced within or as close to Monmouthshire as possible. It will see us continuing to support apprentice placements and provide opportunities in the coming year, see us strengthen our public protection teams so we can play a more prominent role in safeguarding public health and pave the way for the introduction of free school meals for all primary children. These are our headlines but there is more in the detail. These things cost money and we are asking residents to accept a council tax increase of 2.95%. This is our lowest increase for nine years and is well below the rate of inflation. If we could have responsibly gone lower, we would have done so but our judgement is that it could compromise the level of service we need to provide and give those that follow us after the May elections an unfair challenge.
“We have produced a balanced budget every year for the last decade, we have always delivered within it. Our proposals for the year ahead continue this theme. We are making important investments to keep your community strong at a time of national and international instability,” said Cllr. Murphy.
Monmouthshire County Council announces launch of budget proposals for 2022/23
Monmouthshire County Council launched its draft budget proposals for 2022-2023 on Wednesday 19th January. The council faces £10.41m of unavoidable service pressures and £4.96m of pay pressures that continue to bear heavily on the council’s finances.
Councillor Richard John, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “In this budget we’re determined to do all we can to support our communities in recovering from the pandemic and protect and enhance the services we know our residents rely on.
“Despite the impact and consequences of the pandemic this proposed budget sees a continuation of our preparedness to protect and enhance the services we know our residents rely on. This is a budget that delivers on our core priorities. Offering children the best possible start in life with more money for schools. Helping our older residents retain their independence, with better pay for care workers. Protecting our leisure centres, recognising their important role in mental and physical wellbeing. Working towards a low carbon Monmouthshire and with more investment in roads, cycle routes and footpaths and improved broadband, a better connected county. By protecting bus routes and with the continued rollout of 20mph zones in our towns and villages. It’s also a budget that looks to the future and positions the council to take on some of the biggest challenges facing our county and society more generally.”
- We will continue to be at the forefront of the transition to net zero carbon but this requires investment, as does our commitment to eradicate homelessness in the county.
- We will focus on narrowing health inequalities that have become increasingly evident during the pandemic.
- We are committed to social care reform. Provision across Wales and the UK is fractured. Care does not have the professional standing that it deserves and care as a career needs to be valued much more highly.
- We will ensure that schools are resourced to help children whose learning has been disrupted by the pandemic, to be able to make up for lost time, with more investment in mental health and wellbeing support and we’ll continue our multi-million pound school investment programme.
- We will increase the emphasis of our work to help people protect and manage their own mental health and well-being.
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “We are pleased that Welsh Government has acknowledged the challenges faced by local authorities in Wales for a second successive year. However, whilst the council has received an above average increase in its revenue settlement – 11.2%, against an average increase of 9.4% across Wales, Monmouthshire still receives the least funding per head of population (£1,176), £435 per head below the Welsh average, which means Monmouthshire is continuing to be more reliant on council tax income to meet the needs of its communities. It is with a heavy heart that we are having to consider in these draft proposals an increase in council tax of 3.95%. The council tax reduction scheme, which offers mitigation for those on low incomes and those in receipt of benefits, will still be in place. Single person households are also eligible for a 25% reduction on council tax. We have limited any increases to fees and charges where possible but inflationary increases in charges for domiciliary and residential care are also means tested and capped to again mitigate the impact of those on the lowest incomes.
“The council continues to lead by example in committing to paying its lowest paid staff in line with the Real Living Wage set by the Living Wage Foundation and for 2022/23 is extending this through to all of our commissioned care settings and in light of the equal right of paid care workers.” said Councillor Murphy.
Residents are invited to register for a special budget livestream that will take place at 6.30pm on Thursday 27th January. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the face-to-face budget engagement that would normally take place would not be appropriate at this time, so the process is again moving online. Register to take part via the council’s website and an email will be sent with a link to join the event and where you can pre-submit your questions. For those unable to join the livestream, the session will be uploaded to the website to watch after the event.
As part of the consultation process, which is open until noon on 16th February 2021, residents are also being asked to share their thoughts a feedback survey on the budget proposals, which can be found alongside all the proposals at www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2022-2023.
The draft budget consultation closed on 16th February 2022.
BUDGET LIVESTREAM – 6.30pm Thursday 27th January 2022
If you missed this live event, you can now watch the recording of the session HERE.
BUDGET PROPOSAL DOCUMENTS 2022-2023
PREVIOUS NEWS ON THIS YEAR’S PROPOSALS:
Tuesday 21st December 2021: Monmouthshire County Council welcomes news of increased funding for the forthcoming financial year to support service pressures
Monmouthshire County Council today received confirmation from Welsh Government that it will receive an 11.2% increase in its core funding next year compared to the 9.4% average for Wales and where councils across Wales have received settlements ranging from increases of 8.4% to 11.2%. This welcomed news will allow the Council to accommodate a range of significant and immediate pressures affecting services next year and to lessen the need for the Council to draw on its comparatively limited one-off reserves to support the budget.
Councillor Richard John, Leader of Monmouthshire County Council said: “This is a significant local government settlement from Welsh Government, which rightly recognises the extraordinary role of our local services. I am grateful to ministers for listening to us as council leaders, and for making the most of the generous allocation given to the Welsh Treasury by the UK Government. It shows what can be achieved for communities in Wales and across the UK when local, Welsh and UK governments work together. This settlement will help us to make sure our cherished essential local services can continue to support our communities when they need it.”
Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said: “The provisional settlement has offered a significant boost to the Council and avoid it needing to make difficult, immediate and short-term decisions that would have impacted on its frontline services. It is also pleasing to note that Welsh Government have provided indicative core revenue funding allocations for 2023/24 and 2024/25 which will allow the Council to take a more strategic approach to our medium-term financial planning.
Whilst the above average increase in settlement for the Council is very welcomed, we must still recognise that the Council remains firmly rooted to the bottom of the table for the amount of funding per capita it receives from Welsh Government, which means that the Council has to raise a significantly higher proportion of its funding from other sources compared to its counterparts.”
The Council’s draft budget proposals will be considered by its Cabinet at a meeting on the 19th January 2022 and will then be released for public consultation. Given the impact of the ongoing pandemic and the continuing restrictions in place 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 – monmouthshire.gov.uk – and on its social media channels in the New Year.