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Cardiff Council reveals budget to safeguard services and bridge funding gap

Cardiff Council has revealed its budget, which it says safeguards schools and education, supports social services, and protects the most vulnerable, as it faces up to a ‘public sector funding crisis' affecting local authorities across the UK.

Rising costs and demand for services like social care has left the council with ‘extremely difficult decisions to make' if it is to bridge a £30.3m gap in its budget.

Earlier in the year the council consulted with residents who were asked for their views on several cost-saving and money-generating ideas. A record 9,000-plus took part in the four-week consultation.

Now, following that consultation, the council is revealing proposals to safeguard key services while bridging the budget gap.

The proposals include setting any Council Tax rise at 6% - around £1.60 a week for a Band D household. This would be among the lowest council tax increases seen in Wales this year and will help protect some of the services residents asked to be saved from cuts. These include: 

Giving schools a 4.3% uplift of £12.8m a year to help deal with rising costs. Adults and Childrens Social Services will also receive an extra £26.3m in the coming financial year.

Other key proposals in the budget include:

  • No cuts to youth services

  • Spending £6.7m on the city's parks, improving and protecting Green Flag parks

  • Spending £7.1m on highways repairs

  • £308m for school delegated budgets next year

Some services will see increased charges, including:

  • Hiring sports pitches - 10% increase

  • Burials (+10.6%) and the cremation service (+6.1%)

  • School meals - 10p increase, although this service will continue to be subsidised

  • Some parking charges.

Factors including inflation, energy prices, demand pressures, and expected pay increases for teachers, carers, and other public sector workers, mean the council's budget for delivering day-to-day services like education, social care, refuse collection, parks and libraries is set to cost over £57m more in the next financial year (April 2024-March 2025) than it has this year.

Welsh Government's 4.3% grant uplift for Cardiff - less than half of what the council received in the current financial year, will bring in an additional £27m, leaving the council with £30.3m to find. Doing so will require cuts to services, efficiency savings, and increases in charges.

Around 160 jobs at the council are expected to go - many through non-replacement of vacancies.

In the consultation, residents were told two thirds (66.4%) of the council's £804m annual budget was spent on schools and social services. Leaving just £176m to pay for other services like recycling and waste collections, highways, street lighting, libraries and hubs, and economic regeneration.

Around £57m of the budget goes towards the council tax reduction scheme, rates relief and other levies paid to organisations such as the fire service; while £37m is set aside for capital finance to repay interest on Cardiff's council-home-building scheme (plans for 4,000 new council homes) and other projects like new schools and the Cardiff Arena, which is designed to pay back in full over its lease period.

Cardiff Council cabinet member Chris Weaver said: "At the outset of the consultation I said we were facing a public sector funding crisis and that it was important that residents shared their views with us on the budget proposals. The fact that a record number of people took part in the consultation shows that our residents are concerned about these relentless cuts to the services they rely on and the damage that is being done to the public sector, not just here, but across Wales and the rest of the UK.

"Without raising council tax, we just wouldn't be able to safeguard some of the services that are important to our residents. This increase will be among the lowest in Wales, but it will bring in an extra £10.4m and will help us maintain the services our citizens have come to rely on. Equally importantly, anyone who is struggling to pay and is eligible will be able to access support through the Council Tax reduction scheme."

The views of 9,000 residents who took part in the consultation helped shaped the budget for 2024/25, including.

  • 81.6% agreed with closing the museum of Cardiff on one day a week

  • 81% agreed with the asset transfer of pitches and changing facilities

  • 78.1% supported finding partners to support Bute Park Nursery and Roath Park Conservatory

  • 76.7% agreed with finding an alternative operator for Cardiff Riding School

  • 76.2% agreed with phasing the hourly charge for home care services

  • 69.3% agreed with removing hard copies of newspapers, magazines and journals

  • 67.7% agreed with prioritising school budgets

  • 67.1% agreed with charging for all bulky waste collections

  • 66.3% agreed with an increase in burial and cremation fees

  • 63.8% agreed with applying the Welsh Government cap for charges for home care services

  • 61.8% agreed with increasing fees for adults hiring sports pitches and changing facilities

  • 56.6% agreed with increasing the number of volunteers in Hubs and Libraries

  • 50.7% wanted bins to remain in residential areas.

If the budget is approved by scrutiny committees and cabinet, it will go to the full council on 7 March.

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