Bridgend Council Budget 2019-20: Where’s your money going?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, where I spread joy and happiness to the citizens of Bridgend by telling you how ruthlessly public services are going to be cut (due to never-ending austerity) and how much extra you’ll pay for the privilege.

The General Picture (pdf)

Like last year, the Welsh Government have moved to ensure no council faces a cut to their grant greater than 0.5%. However, BCBC’s financial officer estimates that due to new responsibilities and spending commitments there’s effectively been a 1% cut to Bridgend’s budget.

There was a large under-spend of £5.32million at the end of 2018, but this was because grants had been made available to BCBC by the Welsh Government to prepare for changes to teachers’ pay and social care funding.

In total, the council intends to find £7.62 million in savings for 2019-20 and expect to need to make £35.2million in cuts and savings over the next four financial years (of which only £13.8million has been found so far).

Like last year, there’s no proposed cut to the schools budget but it’s unclear how long this can be held off for. One of the more controversial proposals is the possible closure of Bridgend Bus Station if alternative finance can’t be found; this was, however, backed by a large number of people in the budget consultation.

The Cabinet is discussing the budget tomorrow and a full council debate and vote on the budget are due to take place on 20th February 2019.

Where are the cuts and savings going to happen this year? (pdf)

Education & Family Support (-£596,000)

  • Review of inclusion, cognition, learning, educational psychology and autistic spectrum teams (-£323,000)
  • Cut to volunteer driver service, which reportedly hasn’t been run since January 2017 (-£100,000)
  • Phased changes to free home-school transport, such as a greater distance for eligibility (-£67,000)
  • Restructure of Youth Offending Service (-£41,000)
  • Savings resulting from the Welsh Government providing free uniform grants (-£36,000)
  • Cut to contribution to Central South (Schools) Consortium (-£30,000)

Social Services & Wellbeing (-£1.24million)

  • Staffing review across the social services department (-£345,000)
  • Savings resulting from extra care (-£330,000)
  • Review of complex care accommodation and charges for telecare services (-£300,000)
  • Review of the leisure services contract with Halo (-£80,000)
  • Review of management fees with Awen Cultural Trust (-£70,000)
  • Review of library and cultural facilities with the possibility of closures and reduced opening hours (-£60,000)

Communities (-£1.94million)

  • Savings resulting from a revised contract to send waste to the Crumlyn Burrows incinerator, which is currently being negotiated by Neath Port Talbot Council (-£1.3million)
  • Various miscellaneous savings from management restructures etc. (-£299,000)
  • Cutting all subsidies for bus routes (-£148,000)
  • Review of parks and playing fields which will result in what’s described as a “noticeable reduction” in services (-£69,000)
  • Increases in bulky waste and green bag fees (outlined later); reduced opening hours at community recycling centres by 1 hour a day (-£52,000)
  • Possible closure of Bridgend Bus Station if alternative finance can’t be found (-£45,000)
  • Transferring management of Kenfig Nature Reserve (-£10,000)
  • Review of school crossing patrols (-£10,000)
  • Consider introducing charges for the Bridgend shopmobility scheme (-£5,000)

Chief Executive, Administration & Council-Wide (-£3.85million)

  • Cut to borrowing repayments, which will result in longer repayment periods (-£1.98million)
  • Review of business support and leadership (-£350,000)
  • Review of homelessness prevention budget (-£335,000)
  • Scrapping the Councillor Community Fund (-£285,000)
  • Review of ICT (-£280,000)
  • Discounting extra money raised by council tax increase last year (-£213,000)
  • Scrapping “Invest to Save” (-£200,000)
  • Savings from shared regulatory services (-£111,000)
  • Review of customer services and CCTV (-£103,000)

Capital Spending (pdf)

Capital spending is used to pay for new projects and is a separate budget from day-to-day spending (revenue spending). In total, BCBC will have just under £36.2million to spend on capital projects in 2019-20. This is a modest increase of around £690,000 on the revised figures for 2018-19.

As for the highlights:

  • £8.14million for a redevelopment of the Waterton council depot and £1.87million for council fleet vehicles.
  • £2.48million for the Cardiff City Region Deal.
  • £2.45million for disabled facilities grants and £500,000 for residential children’s care at Newbridge House.
  • £2.4million for carriageway resurfacing and footpaths, £2million for bridge strengthening along the A4061 in the Ogmore Valley and £1.1million to install more energy efficient streetlights.
  • £2.25million for the Llynfi Valley development programme.
  • £1.32million for a new community recycling centre (due to be built at Village Farm in Pyle).
  • £1million towards community asset transfers and £100,000 for housing renewal/empty properties.
  • £685,000 for energy saving measures within BCBC and £520,000 for digital transformation projects.
  • £542,000 to reduce infant class sizes.
  • £530,000 for extensions to Porthcawl and Cornelly cemeteries.
  • £245,000 to move the registrar’s office from Sunnyside to the Civic Offices on Angel Street.
  • £100,000 to further develop the smart heat proposal in Bridgend town centre.

Council Tax, Charges & Fees

If you think councils put up council tax just because they can, listen to this evidence – from the leaders of Newport and Torfaen council respectively – to a Senedd committee last year. Even council leaders accept it’s a crap way to raise money but have few other options:

Council tax is set to rise by 5.4%
, meaning the average Band D bill will increase to £1,470.82 (+£75.36)….that’s before adding the precepts.

The policing precept – set by the South Wales Police & Crime Commissioner, Alun Michael (Lab) – is set to increase by 10.3% (yes, you read that correctly) to around £258 for a Band D property (+£24.00).

There’s no word yet on what town and community council precepts will be, but you can expect an increase there too. More details when they become available. Bridgend is also expected to be charged an additional £330,000 by the South Wales Fire Authority due to pension pressures – which will ultimately be passed on to taxpayers.

In terms of fees and charges there are a number of changes (pdf):

  • “Paying places” on home-school buses (for those ineligible for free transport) will increase to £2 per day, working out as an extra £19 per child per year.
  • Charges for collecting 3 bulky waste items will increase to £20 (+£4.50), additional items will cost £6.70-per-item (+£1.70).
  • The annual charge for garden waste/green bag collections will increase to £38.80 (+£10.00) and £34.00 for concessionary charges (+£10.00).
  • Householder permitted development enquiry charges will increase to £40 (+£15). For non-household permitted development enquiries it’ll rise to up to £50 depending on the type of development.
  • Planning history searches will be cut to £40 (-£10) for post-1996 applications and increase to £80 (+£30) for 1976-1996 searches.
  • The fee to receive hard copies of planning decision notices will increase to £15 per decision (+£5).
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