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Council budget agreed for 2020-21

Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed a total net budget of £286.88m for the coming year.

After grant funding, fees and charges are added, the council’s gross revenue budget for 2020-21 will be around £420m, with an additional capital investment programme for the year of £56.4m.

In order to fund additional budget pressures and cover a funding shortfall of £2.4m, a council tax increase of 4.5 per cent has been agreed, which is the equivalent of an extra £1.27 a week for an average Band D property.

Thanks to the first significant increase in core grant funding from Welsh Government for almost 12 years and in line with public priorities identified during extensive consultation, the council is no longer seeking to pursue a number of its former proposals, such as requiring schools to find a one per cent efficiency saving.

Other proposals no longer going ahead include removing adult community learning, the CCTV service and a community recycling centre, or reducing funding for street cleaning, highways and the pop-up business school.

Instead, the council will spend £121m on education in 2020-21, including an extra £4m for schools.
Capital funding of £19m has been pledged towards the provision of new and refurbished school premises up to 2026-27, which is in addition to the £21.6m that the authority has already invested in school modernisation.

A total of £71m will be spent on social services and well-being, while £21.8m has been marked for public realm works covering services such as highways, parks and open spaces, street cleaning, public transport, rights of way and road safety.

Around £8.5m 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 £56.4m capital investment programme for 2020-21 will invest £6.4m for the Maesteg Town Hall redevelopment project, £3m in carriageway resurfacing and footpath repairs, and £2.75m for Porthcawl regeneration projects. This is in addition to £4.8m for services ranging from street lighting and bridge strengthening to disabled facilities grants and highways structural works.

Energy-efficient street lighting will receive £1.4m, with £1.3m invested in establishing a new recycling centre in Pyle. £905,000 will be invested in a new multi-agency social service hub, while £816,000 will help develop new Welsh-medium nursery provision in Bettws, Bridgend, Ogmore Valley and Porthcawl.

With additional learning needs at Cefn Cribwr Primary set to receive £387,000 and £530,000 to support cemetery extensions at Porthcawl and Cornelly, a large number of these capital schemes will be supported through external grant funding in addition to the council’s own resources.

Among the measures that the council will take to cover the 2020-21 funding shortfall of £2.4m are plans for reducing the authority’s contribution to the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service and renegotiating contracts with partners such as HALO Leisure and Awen Cultural Trust.

The council will also be reviewing charges for bulk waste collections and for berths at Porthcawl Marina, and look at reducing the opening hours at community recycling centres.

The higher than anticipated settlement figure from Welsh Government enabled us to significantly revisit our budget proposals for 2020-21, and incorporate a much lower council tax increase than we thought would otherwise be necessary for us to continue to provide essential services to more than 142,000 residents in Bridgend County Borough.

We are grateful to Welsh Government for this even as we look towards covering an overall funding shortfall of £2.4million for the year ahead. The budget has been through a vigorous process of cross-party scrutiny and discussion as well as public consultation, which saw a 40 per cent increase in the number of people taking part. This has played a vital role in helping us to arrive at the final budget proposals as we have once again been able to prioritise services which people feel most strongly about, and have directed the bulk of our increasingly limited resources towards schools and care for the elderly and vulnerable.

The biggest increase in this budget is for schools, with a significant investment in special needs education because the county borough has seen an increase in children who require specialist support. Recent national flooding has also highlighted the importance of investing in our public infrastructure – not just culverts and flood defences, but things like wide-scale tree planting to prevent soil erosion and soak up moisture. Providing public services after a full decade of austerity is no easy task, and I’d like to thank everyone who has played a part in this, and has helped us prepare a balanced budget under ongoing difficult circumstances.

Council Leader Huw David

Deputy Leader Hywel Williams added: “This budget delivers a sensible mix of new investment and savings alongside essential services, and takes an extremely realistic view of the situation that we have to work with while accounting for the views of local people and all elected members.

“In the last decade, we have covered a total and consistent funding shortfall of £68m, and face covering a further £29m by 2024. The bulk of this has been met through internal efficiencies, and through finding new ways of working and providing services.

“Two examples of this can be seen in the Community Asset Transfer process, which is enabling sports clubs and town and community councils to take on the management of pitches, pavilions and changing rooms, and our new apprenticeship scheme, which is designed to preserve the experience and skills of specialist staff and ensure that services do not become vulnerable.

“Austerity may still be very much with us, but as this budget demonstrates, we are continuing to face the challenges of a difficult and uncertain future, and remain committed towards providing high quality services to local people while protecting the most vulnerable members of the community.”

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