Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed a total net budget of £298.95m for the coming year while avoiding proposed cuts to several popular services and keeping its council tax increase as low as possible.
The council’s gross revenue budget for 2021-22 will be around £435m, with an additional capital investment programme for the year of £62.4m.
In order to fund additional budget pressures and cover a funding shortfall of £1.7m, a council tax increase of 3.9 per cent has been agreed, which is the equivalent of an extra £1.15 a week for an average Band D property.
Council tax currently funds almost 30 per cent of the budget, with more than £80m being collected from around 65,000 households in the county borough.
Following an increase in core grant funding from Welsh Government and recommendations from the local authority’s scrutiny committee, the council is no longer seeking to pursue a number of proposals, such as withdrawing the free domestic pest control service or removing escorts on primary school transport services where there are fewer than eight pupils.
Over the coming year, the council will spend £127m on services delivered by the Education and Family Support Directorate with £103m delegated to schools to support teacher and staff salaries, and the running costs of the school buildings.
The council has already spent £21.6m in building and refurbishing schools as part of its 21st Century School Modernisation Band A Programme and has committed to a further £19m as part of the Band B Programme.
After Education, the largest area of council spend is on social care. This includes social care for children, older people and adults with care and support needs.
In total, the council will spend £74m on social care and wellbeing services over the coming year.
The council’s strategy over the next few years is to more effectively support independence and continue to remodel the way it works to help decrease dependency and enable people to maximise their independence.
Meanwhile £21.8m is earmarked for public realm works covering services such as the highways, parks and open spaces, street cleaning waste collection and disposal, rights of way and road safety.
Around £9.1m will be spent on the collection and disposal of household waste and £1.8m on regulatory services such as environmental health, licensing, trading standards and animal health.
The £62.4m capital investment programme for 2021-22 will include investment of £5m on the Maesteg Town Hall redevelopment project, £2.5m for Porthcawl regeneration projects, £2m on a new children’s residential accommodation hub, almost £2m on carriageway resurfacing and footpath repairs, and street lighting, and £1.75m on disabled facilities grants.
The programme also includes £6m for a flood defence scheme in Porthcawl which will see major work undertaken on the Western Breakwater, Eastern Promenade and Sandy Bay areas of the town, and £225,000 for the purchase of 500 devices for digitally excluded learners to enable them to continue their home schooling when not in school.
To enable the council to cover the 2021-22 funding shortfall of £1.7m, the council will undertake a range of measures such as reducing its contribution to the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service, relocating its community recycling centre from Tythegston to Pyle resulting in the ending of lease payments at the existing site, and renegotiating contracts for various facilities.
The council also plans to save around £300,000 by transferring responsibility for the management of assets, predominantly outdoor sports related playing fields and pavilions, to town and community councils or community clubs and groups.
The Leader, Cllr Huw David, said: “As always, we have adopted an inclusive approach towards the setting of this budget. It has been shaped using the results of an intensive public consultation exercise, and members from all political parties have contributed through the overview and scrutiny process, the Budget Research and Evaluation Panel and more.
“This has provided members with ample opportunity to put forward ideas and options. As no alternative ways of making savings have been identified or proposed, the budget has been approved without any further changes or amends.
“The higher than anticipated settlement figure from Welsh Government enabled us to significantly revisit our budget proposals for 2021-22, and to incorporate a lower council tax increase than we thought would otherwise be necessary in order for us to continue to provide essential services to more than 147,000 residents in Bridgend County Borough.
“We are grateful to Welsh Government for this as it has meant that we have been able to protect schools from a proposed one per cent annual efficiency target for one year. The impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on top of challenges around the Brexit transition period means that our budget planning for the new financial year has had to be carefully planned and targeted within an environment of general uncertainty over what the future may bring.
“We have listened to those who took part in our public consultation on the budget proposals, and also the recommendations put forward via the cross-party scrutiny committee and our Budget Research and Evaluation Panel.
“As a result, we have been able to once again prioritise the services which people feel most strongly about, and have directed the majority of our resources towards schools and care for the elderly and vulnerable.
“This is a budget which reflects all of our careful planning, ambitions and aspirations, and I want to thank everyone who has played a part in its preparation.”
The Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams, added: “Developing a viable, balanced budget while in the throes of a global pandemic has been an extremely difficult process, but also an essential one.
“On the whole, the UK Government and Welsh Government have been supportive of the initial additional costs and burdens that have emerged from Covid-19, and covered most of the directly incurred costs.
“However, it remains unclear going forward how much of the overall loss of income and additional cost pressures will be covered in the 2021-22 financial year.
“We anticipate that the impact on levels of income in leisure, car parking and rents may become a medium-term problem, and with an expected additional demand for our council tax reduction scheme, the level of council tax collection is also expected to fall.
“Ongoing expenditure is likely to be significant on matters relating to public health, especially around the Test, Trace, Protect scheme, the use of personal protective equipment, arrangements for the public vaccination programme and additional Covid-19 enforcement.
“We will also have to address issues such as homelessness and social care sustainability as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
“Local government funding continues to face a difficult and uncertain future, but I want to reassure residents that as demonstrated by our budget plans for the coming year, Bridgend County Borough Council will continue find new and innovative ways of delivering essential services to local residents.”