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Cabinet Members discuss Medium Term Financial Strategy

Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet met recently to discuss the authority’s proposed Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2023-24 to 2026-27.

Following on from the meeting of Cabinet, the strategy will shortly be undergoing further scrutiny by cross party councillors ahead of it being presented to full council on 1 March 2023.

Outlined in the document is a financial forecast for 2023-2027 and a detailed draft revenue budget for 2023-24, setting out the spending priorities of the council, key investment objectives and budget areas earmarked for necessary savings.

This year’s draft MTFS has been significantly guided by the proposed objectives in the authority’s new Corporate Plan, which will be presented to Council for approval alongside the MTFS 2023-2027 in March.

The Corporate Plan will be fully aligned with the MTFS including explicit links between resources and wellbeing objectives. Even though, by its very nature, the council is a large and complex organisation, offering multiple services to local communities and people, its key objective remains to work as one single organisation, avoiding duplication and double handling of data through sharing of systems and processes. ‘One council working together to improve lives’ is enshrined in the Council’s vision.

Like many organisations, the council has suffered from significant cost pressures and loss of income as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with inflationary pressures as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the plus the impact of the cost of living crisis on both pay and prices, particularly for fuel and energy.

The changing economic climate during the financial year has been unprecedented, with rising inflation around the world, budget planning for the financial year 2023-24 is more uncertain and challenging than usual.

There are fewer opportunities to cut services in a climate that requires more support for our older and more vulnerable members of society with substantial increased demand for many services.

Local authorities get the majority of their revenue funding from Welsh Government through the Revenue Support Grant and a share of Non Domestic Rates. It supplements this through council tax collection, other grants and fees and charges.

Council tax currently funds around 27 per cent of the budget, meaning that for every £1 spent on services provided by the council, only around 27 pence is funded from council tax.

Based on the proposed net budget of almost £320 million, the strategy will include an initial proposal for council tax to increase to six per cent for 2023-24.

The Medium Term Financial Strategy is very much a draft proposal at this stage. The proposal will undergo further scrutiny at a number of committee meetings later this month, ahead of it being presented to full council on 1 March. The scrutiny of the budget forms part of the overall budget planning process, along with the public consultation that is currently underway.

The council’s Cabinet is committed to keeping council tax levels as low as feasibly possible, recognising the impact of the cost of living crisis on households. However, it is important to recognise that inflation is currently running at level of over 10 per cent and the council is facing unprecedented pressures in some services as well as huge cost increases for amenities such as energy usage.

We have also taken into consideration in this proposal that the most vulnerable members of our communities are eligible for additional support, such as the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and discounts on their energy bills. We are still working through some of the additional cost pressures we face and if at all possible, we will seek to reduce the proposed level of council tax further, but the current proposals are consistent with the average increases proposed across Wales currently.

The council’s cabinet member for resources, Councillor Hywel Williams

To make your views known about the 2023-24 council budget, you can find the consultation on the council’s website. The survey closes at midnight on the 22 January 2023.

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