It’s budget time again and what’s likely to be the penultimate one for Bridgend Council (BCBC) before the scheduled 2017 local elections.
The cabinet discussed the budget on Tuesday and you can watch the webcast here (it’s supposed to be there anyway). Full council are set to debate and vote on the budget on 10th March and if it’s webcast – it doesn’t look like it’s going to be at the moment – I’ll return to it then.
The Overall Picture
In total, BCBC are set to spend £254.9million in 2016-17. They’ve identified £7.5million worth of cuts and savings for 2016-17, and are expecting to need to save at least £25.9million over the next four financial years – possibly as much as £42.8million (in a “worst case scenario”).
BCBC underspent by £1.2million at the end of 2015, however some £2.71million of cuts identified for 2015-16 were described as impossible to deliver or only likely to be delivered in part.
BCBC undertook a public consultation on their budget proposals – which is becoming an annual event – and some 1,800 people took part (a 311% increase on the last financial year).
80% agreed with the proposed priorities and 11 of the 12 cuts proposals received majority public support; the exception being cuts to the highways budget. The most popular cut proposals were online services, cuts to lifeguard patrols/lifeguard patrol seasons and regeneration projects.
As a result of the consultation, proposed cuts to highways have been reduced by £500,000, while proposed £229,000 cuts to bus subsidies have been reduced to just £15,000.
In addition, the schools budget has been protected in line with the Welsh Government’s commitment to keep spending changes at 1% above changes to the Welsh block grant. Whether the Welsh Government have actually stuck to that themselves is open to debate. I’m not the only person who thinks they haven’t, but I’ll come back to that as part of my election coverage later this month.
Some of the Winners & Losers (pdf)
–Indicates a direct cut to budgets or the total savings identified in a directorate
+ Indicates a budget saving rather than a direct budget cut
Education & Transformation (-£910,000)
- Returning children with special needs to in-house provision (+£200,000) – BCBC admit this could lead to a legal challenge.
- Re-tender home-school transport, find school transport efficiencies and rationalise special needs transport (+£450,000)
- A staff restructure in additional learning needs, with possible redundancies (+£100,000)
Social Services & Wellbeing (-£2.69million)
- Focusing home care on most serious cases and supporting increased independence (+£290,000)
- Transforming the assessment framework to the new eligibility criteria in Social Services & Wellbeing Act 2014 (+£662,000)
- Reviewing Continuing Healthcare cases to ensure service users make an appropriate contribution to their own care packages (+£118,000)
- Selling placements at Bridgend Resource Centre to other public sector organisations (+£108,000)
- Transfer family care services to community hubs (+£210,000)
- Earlier identification of looked after children at risk (+£357,000)
- Remodelling children’s respite care (+£200,000)
- Savings associated with Halo Leisure partnership (+£80,000)
- Cuts to management, administration and training (-£76,000)
- Income generation at Bryn-y-Cae care home in Brackla (+£54,000)
- Review of lifeguard services including length of season and beach coverage (+£26,000)
- Review of staffing structures with probable redundancies (+£260,000)
- Review of, and reduction in, ground maintenance – including cemeteries (+£69,000)
- Review of highways maintenance, including staffing changes (+£417,000)
- Review of bus subsidies (+£15,000)
- Review of overtime across the highways department (+£90,000)
- Efficiency savings from housing budgets (+£56,000)
- Changes to library services, including a new model of delivery (+£150,000)
- Development of Awen cultural trust(+£100,000)
Council-wide savings, Corporate Resources & Legal Affairs (-£2.54million)
- Redundancies in finance, human resources, IT and other departments (+£250,000)
- Reduce costs of IT systems by bringing systems back in-house (+£192,000)
- Move council tax and some aspects of benefit services online (+£60,000)
- Reduce CCTV operations, which could impact quality of services (-£30,000)
- County Bulletin and Bridgenders (internal magazine) to be published online-only (+£16,000)
- Rationalisation of estates by moving staff from Sunnyside and Ravens Court to the civic offices on Angel Street (+£386,000)
- Public protection collaboration (+£181,000)
- Reduction in corporate building maintenance (-£200,000)
- Reducing the amount of interest paid on loans and reducing insurance premiums (+£400,000)
- Cuts to council tax reduction scheme (-£300,000)
I’m only going to list the amount BCBC will be expected to contribute to each project, as some projects will be eligible for external funding from the Welsh Government or European Union. In total, BCBC expect to spend £43.6million on capital projects in 2016-17, including (pdf) :
- Relocating Maesteg Library to Maesteg Town Hall, with accompanying facilities upgrades (£500,000)
- Replacement for Porthcawl sea defences at Esplanade Road (£714,000)
- A new Local Recycling Centre at Village Farm Industrial Estate, Pyle (£1.33million)
- Road safety improvements near schools (£500,000; in addition to £500,000 specifically for Maesteg Comprehensive)
- Bridge-strengthening along the A4061 in the Ogmore Valley (£2.45million)
- Two new “extra-care” facilities in Bridgend and Maesteg (£3million)
- New Mynydd Cynffig Primary (£4.9million 2016-2019)
- New Pencoed Primary (£8.7million 2016-2019)
- New English and Welsh-medium schools in Bettws (£9.2million 2016-2019)
- New Brynmenyn Primary (£7.8million 2016-2019)
- Unspecified infrastructure spending in Porthcawl, presumably part of regeneration (£5.5million)
Council Tax & Charges
Council tax is set to rise by 3.9%, meaning a Band D bill will rise to £1,297.78 (+£48.71 a year). This is before adding the incoming Police & Crime Commissioner and Town & Community Councils precepts.As for council service charges:
- Adult social care charges appear to have been capped at £60 per person – in line with Welsh regulations – though BCBC list changes as being “to be announced”.
- Charges for pre-application planning advice will be introduced as set out in the Planning Act 2015, ranging from £25 for a single home to £250 for commercial developments, farms and new homes. There’ll also be an administration fee of £25.
- Planning application fees will rise by 15%.
- Porthcawl Marina mooring fees will rise by 5%.