Bridgend Budget 2017-18

Bridgend Council’s (BCBC) budget – the final one before the local elections in May – is to be discussed by the cabinet tomorrow, with the council due to vote on it at a later date.

The General Picture (pdf)

The money allocated to BCBC by the Welsh Government for 2017-18 has remained largely stable, with a cut of just £600,000 (around 0.3%). Once additions to the council’s reserves are discounted there was a projected £418,000 underspend at the end of 2016.

There’s uncertainty over how much councils will get from 2018-19 onwards, partly because it’s unclear what spending cuts (or, indeed, increases) will happen as a result of Brexit, as well as question marks over the stability of the pound.

In total, the cuts proposed by BCBC this coming financial year stand at £5.85million, with expectations the council will have to make £32.8million in cuts between 2017-18 and 2020-21.

The item that will make the headlines are proposed cuts to the schools budget. It’s no longer Labour or, in this case, Liberal Democrat policy in Wales to protect schools budgets, so they’re set to be cut by £869,000 a year in Bridgend for the next four years – the equivalent of 1%, and almost £3.5million in total. It’s likely the “efficiency savings” will be made by addressing surplus school places, but any cut to the schools budget will cause concern.

Where will the axe fall? (pdf)

Schools & Educational Support (-£1.44million)

  • Schools budget cut (-£869,000)
  • Restructure of business support and development team (-£142,000)
  • School catering service cuts (-£79,000)
  • Changes to speech and language therapy provision (-£75,000)
  • Scrapping the post of Lead Educational Psychologist (-£75,000)
  • Bring management of Flying Start Centres in-house (-£75,000)
  • Phased implementation of changes to school buses (-£60,000)
  • Review school care-taking/built environment service (-£31,000)
  • Cut nursery development grants to private providers (-£30,000)

Social Services & Wellbeing (-£2.24million)

  • Impact of social services remodelling diverting people away from long-term care to personalised, home-based care (-£668,000)
  • Review of residential respite care (-£414,000)
  • Review contract to deliver leisure centres, sport and swimming pools (-£308,000)
  • A reduction in looked-after children due to early intervention (-£250,000)
  • Adopt new social care assessment framework (-£150,000)
  • Day centre service cuts (-£120,000)
  • New delivery model for cultural services with Awen Trust (-£101,000)
  • Review continuing health care (CHC) services (-£100,000)
  • Develop revenue-raising opportunities at Glyn Cynffig mental health centre (-£73,000)
  • Remodelling of “Shared Lives”(-£50,000)
Communities (-£806,000)

  • Cut in funding towards waste incinerator in Neath Port Talbot (-£200,000)
  • Savings as a result of a new anaerobic digestor for food waste in Swansea (-£100,000)
  • Cuts to adult learning (-£70,000)
  • Review, and possible cuts to, lifeguard services (-£65,000)
  • Cuts to winter road maintenance budget (-£60,000)
  • Review of car parking passes for councillors and council staff (-£50,000)
  • Cut to parking enforcement budget (-£50,000)
  • Transfer management of community centres (-£39,000)
  • Cuts to tourism support and tourism promotion (-£21,000)
  • Cut all funding to support Coity Walia common (-£21,000)
  • Scrapping depot security budget (-£20,000)
  • Cuts to road markings budget (-£10,000)
Administration & Council-Wide Spending (-£1.34million)

  • Cut to council tax reduction scheme due to budget underspend (-£300,000)
  • Move council tax and some aspects of benefits online (-£150,000)
  • Restructure of legal, democratic services and procurement departments (-£150,000)
  • Cut number of HR and business support staff (-£150,000)
  • Cut number of corporate directors (-£120,000)
  • Reduction in miscellaneous corporate budgets (-£107,000)
  • New efficiencies in IT (-£105,000)
  • Restructure of Transformation Team (-£60,000)
  • Reduce number of internal audit hours (-£60,000)
  • Review housing service budget (-£50,000)
  • Cut number of finance staff (-£50,000)
  • Public protection collaboration (-£20,000)
Capital Spending

The capital budget (pdf) is outlined over ten years, but some of the big projects earmarked to start in 2017-18 include:

Schools Programme

  • £11.3million contribution to the Cardiff Capital City Region.
  • £7.8million to move Mynydd Cynffig Primary to a remodelled Cynffig Comprehensive.
  • £10million for a new Bettws Primary and Ysgol Cwm Garw.
  • £10.1million for a new Pencoed Primary.
  • £8.6million for a new Brynmenyn Primary.
  • £600,000 towards school modifications for pupils with specific medical needs.
Other Capital Projects

  • £3million towards extra care facilities in Brynmenyn and Maesteg.
  • £1.3million to create a new recycling centre in Pyle.
  • £3.85million towards a (highly controversial) creation of a “cultural hub” at Maesteg Town Hall.
  • £4.4million to relocate a council depot (reportedly to Bryncethin).
  • £550,000 towards a laptop replacement scheme, half of which will be borrowed.

Also, councillors will be given £5,000 each to spend on matters “important to people in their wards” with £285,000 allocated for the scheme.

This is supposedly to improve engagement with the council, but while BCBC intend to press on with this, their (relatively inexpensive) webcasting service has fallen by the wayside if not been quietly scrapped altogether.

Council Tax & Charges

In previous election year budgets Labour froze council tax. They’re not proposing to do that this year.

Council tax is set to rise by 2.9%, meaning the average Band D bill will rise to £1335.72 a year (+£37.64). This is beforeadding precepts for the Police & Crime Commissioner (which has seen inflation-busting increases since 2012) and town/community councils.

In terms of charges for council services (pdf):

  • School meal prices are set to rise by 10p across the board, meaning the price for primary and infant school pupils will rise to £2.20 and for secondary school pupils rise to £2.50.
  • The Welsh Government are expected to increase the cap on home care charges from £55 to £70 a week.
  • Porthcawl Marina berth fees will rise by 7.5%.
  • Property transaction fees will rise to £400 (+£150) for industrial units and £250 (+£100) for retail, market and starter units.