Monmouthshire County Council will take a significant step towards setting its budget for next year when Cabinet outlines a recommended budget at its meeting on 20th February, which will then be considered by full Council on 7th March. It has been a difficult process and we have been listening to feedback from residents about our initial proposals since 19th December 2018. As a result, there are some changes that will be put forward.
Cllr Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said:
“I would like to thank all of the people who have shared their feedback with us. We have listened to you. The proposed changes to the budget that we are considering are based on what you’ve told us matters to you. Monmouthshire receives the lowest funding per head of population of any local authority in Wales – since 2013/14 the council’s revenue support grant, the core funding received from central government, has reduced considerably. The largest reduction of any local authority in Wales – with such significant budget cuts listening to our residents is more important than ever. Our approach continues to be to change, improve and adapt our services rather than to close them down. We refuse to lose our ambition for the county although financial realities are restraining our abilities somewhat.”
‘The Council will receive £600k less in hard cash from Welsh Government next year than it received this year. Together with some £6 million of spending pressures identified through the budget process and £3.6 million of other pay and price increases we have had to find a savings package totalling some £10.2 million. £3.6 million will be found from cost reductions, £3.2 million from increases in income and £3.4 million from a Council Tax increase of 5.95%.’
Councillor Murphy added that the Cabinet’s strategy has been straightforward and is directly linked to the Councils approved Corporate Plan. Some of the major investments proposed by Cabinet are:To protect schools by fully funding all pay and pension increases at a cost of £1.9 million.
To recognise social care pressures; primarily around our ageing population and an increasing number of looked after children at a cost of £1.2 million.
To honour all national pay awards and continue its position to set a Living wage in line with the Living Wage Foundation.
To make available an additional £300,000 for Disabled Facility Grants to enable more people to live independently for longer.
To spend an additional £1.2 million on highways maintenance schemes.
To continue work on a new 3-18 school in Abergavenny.
To commence the build of Abergavenny community hub and complete the town centre refurbishment programme.
To make necessary provision to bring forward a replacement for Severn View residential home.
To make provision to push on with feasibility works on new transport infrastructure in and around Chepstow.
To deliver a new post office in Usk community hub.
To continue on with plans to regenerate the centre of Caldicot.
To set aside £100k to support high street traders through a business rates discretion over and above national levels.
Councillor Murphy went on to say that a range of service changes / cost reductions will go forward, albeit some key changes arising from listening to residents views will be:
· Blue badge charges – The proposal to introduce parking charges for Blue Badge holders will not go ahead in Monmouthshire. Further, we will improve signage and enforcement for disabled car parking spaces. We will not consider the introduction of charges for the remainder of this Council term.
· Car parking charges – some residents felt that Sunday car parking charges would deter people who pop to their local high street for a short visit on a Sunday. Consequently Cabinet will be recommending that the first two hours will be free with a single charge of one pound for the rest of the day.
Christmas parking – The council will continue to provide free car parking for another year for residents and visitors to the county.
· Business rate relief scheme – Cabinet will recommend that further support will be given to businesses through a locally determined Business Rate Relief Scheme. The views of the business community will be taken on board in designing the scheme. More information about how businesses can apply for business rate relief will be shared in due course. The Cabinet also intends to make an offer to Welsh Government to work with them to examine options for the longer term reform of local taxes and to make sure such a system is progressive, fair and transparent.
· Monmouthshire Specific Learning Difficulties Service – Concerns were raised about two roles which were potentially going to be deleted within the specific learning difficulties service team which supports schools – the council is committed to supporting all learners and as a result of the feedback shared these roles will now not be deleted.