The City of Cardiff Council is urging residents to share their views on next year’s 2017/18 budget proposals.
Because of cuts in funding from the government, local authorities around the country are having to make huge savings in the coming years – for instance through cuts in services, further ‘efficiencies’, or increased charges.
Cardiff Council needs to find £25m to balance the books and Cabinet will agree outline proposals on Thursday, November 10. Following that, consultation will begin with the public from Thursday, November 10 until Sunday, December 11.
Cabinet member for Corporate Services and Performance, Cllr Graham Hinchey said: “It’s really important our residents take this opportunity to feed into the budget process. We have clear ideas about what we need to do but this four-week budget consultation will allow them to tell us what really matters to them. We want to make the right decisions and we need to hear the public’s views.”
As part of the proposals some fees and charges could increase and the City Council could change the way it uses some of its buildings, including:
- Charges for burials could rise by £30 and cremations by £10
- Charges for Births, Deaths and Marriages could increase by 4-5% *
- School meals could go up by 10p a day
- School buildings could be hired out to use at evenings and weekends for community events
- Services at Hubs could be expanded to include a variety of paid for courses
Cllr Hinchey, added: “The provisional settlement from Welsh Government is slightly more favourable than we bargained for. However, it is still a cut in real terms because of price and pay inflation.
“I want residents to know that we will listen to their views on how we bridge the ever-increasing gap between a rising and an ageing population and demands for services with less money each year. We are working our way through an incredibly challenging time financially. Our population continues to grow and demand for the services we deliver is on the rise, but we are getting less money in real terms from Government to deliver the services our citizens expect.
“We have had to find £200m in savings over the past ten years alone which has meant we have had to make some pretty fundamental changes to the way we do business.
“The pressures being placed on the Council and its staff are huge and we have a legal duty to balance the books. This means we have to look at everything we do to see if we can do it more efficiently. We also need to look at how we can make money by offering our services to new customers.
“I do believe people are beginning to understand the seriousness of the situation. We are stretched across the piece, but I want everyone to know city council staff are working incredibly hard to deliver for citizens despite the cuts.
“We need our residents to engage with us. It’s terribly important they make clear to us the services that really matter to them, as there is no doubt some services will have to go or, at the very least, the way they are delivered will fundamentally have to change.
“A case in point is our new partnership arrangement with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) which will see them take over the running of most our leisure centres. Quite simply we can’t afford to run our leisure centres anymore, but teaming up with leisure experts GLL (a not-for-profit charitable enterprise) means that residents will still be able to enjoy our leisure facilities for many years and jobs have been safeguarded for the future.”
The Council has four ways of making up the £25m budget gap for 2017/18. These are:
- Make savings
- Use reserves
- Increase Council Tax
- Limit schools growth
Setting a budget involves finding a combination of these that protects the City Council’s financial interests and works towards delivering its priorities which are better education, supporting the vulnerable, creating more and better paid jobs, and working with partners and residents to change the way we deliver services.
The Council is proposing to make up the budget shortfall by finding £17.2m in savings, using up £1.5m in reserves, limiting growth on schools’ budgets by 30% (£1.9m), and by raising a net £4.4m in Council Tax charges.
Cllr Hinchey said: “Our plan is to increase Council Tax by 3.7%. The same level it was increased by in 2016/17. That’s 75p a week on a Band D property.
“School budgets are not being cut, in fact we are giving them an extra £7.2m and they will receive 100% of the money made available for pupil number growth. But we are asking schools to manage their budgets effectively and to find £1.9m to go towards things like pay increases.
“This does not affect our desire to improve education across the city. We are making great progress in this area. Our GCSE and A-Level results continue to improve year on year and our 21st Century Schools project with Welsh Government will see £164m more invested on new schools across the city, including the new Eastern High and the new secondary school for the West.
“We are also planning to use some City Council reserves, but using reserves to fund the budget is not a long-term solution. A bit like using your savings to buy groceries – once they dry up you have a problem feeding yourself.
“We are being open and upfront about the choices we have to make. That’s why we want our residents to have their say.
“Obviously cuts will still have to be made and I hope people understand that. But if we work together we can prioritise what really matters and this consultation is the public’s chance to tell us what they think. I would urge as many people as possible to get involved. We deliver services that affect everyone across the city so don’t miss this opportunity to have your voice heard.”
The City Council faces significant financial challenges with a budget gap of £25m for 2017/18 and a potential shortfall of £76m over the next three years. This comes on top of £200m which has been found over the past 10 years.
Cllr Hinchey, said: “There is no easy way to bridge a £25m gap – especially after already finding £200m over the past 10 years. We want to do our best to support and maintain our four key priorities which are better education, supporting the vulnerable, creating more and better paid jobs, and working with partners and residents to change the way we deliver services.”
Any residents who want to take part in the consultation can do so by viewing the Changes for Cardiff document and filling in the questionnaire online at www.cardiff.gov.uk/budget. Hard copies will be available for people at libraries, leisure centres and hubs or you can request a hard copy version by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning 02920 873854. For a full version of the budget proposals, please read the City Council’s Cabinet Report of November 10, 2016, at www.cardiff.gov.uk/budget.
Consultation and engagement activity will take the form of online consultation, targeted engagement, hard copy distribution and some promotional events.
Hard copies will also be distributed to residents in some supermarkets and at community events in the city.