‘More hard decisions ahead’ as council seeks to save £10m in next year’s budget
Posted on: Wednesday 26 September 2018
Bridgend County Borough Council is warning residents to expect some difficult choices and major reductions in services as it launches its ‘Shaping Bridgend’s Future’ budget consultation for 2019-20.
The consultation, which will run from 24 September to 18 November, arrives amid concerns that the authority will need to cover a £10m shortfall in the amount of funding it receives to provide essential services throughout the coming year for 142,000 people.
The authority has already saved more than £30m through measures such as streamlining its senior management structure, reducing council staff by more than 400, transferring specific services to partners such as Awen Cultural Trust, and making reductions in areas such as public conveniences and street cleansing.
But with a further £35m shortfall predicted within the next few years, the council is now being forced to consider reducing or withdrawing services that it has previously worked hard to protect.
Out of a total current annual budget of £266m, the authority is spending £89m on schools, £22m on services for disabled people, £20m on care for older people, £18m on social services for children, £3.5m on sports and recreation, £9.5m on recycling and waste, and much more.
Shaping Bridgend’s Future is asking residents to look at how much the council spends on specific services, and to highlight what they think could be changed, what should be protected, and what could be withdrawn.
The consultation is also designed to make people aware of just how serious the situation is, and what the effect of inevitable budget cuts may be – for example, a four-year 1% budget reduction in the £89m that the council currently spends on schools would result in a saving of £3.5m, but could result in less teaching staff for schools.
Closing Bridgend Bus Station would save £89,000, but passengers would have to access bus bays by walking around the building, and would not be able to use any of its waiting room facilities. Likewise, while reducing the number of day centres in the county borough would save £280,000, it would also remove well-used facilities from older people and people with learning disabilities.
The consultation also asks people to consider what level of increase should be imposed for the year ahead. Council tax accounts for just 28% or £74m of the total budget, and a rise of 4.9% would mean that the average household would pay £1.31 extra a week and generate an additional £3.6m for services.
National austerity measures have been in place for a number of years now, and councils have been struggling throughout this process to protect services using increasingly reduced resources.
This can only be sustained for so long before it has an effect on the most essential public services, and the reality of the matter is that we have now reached that point.
In 2018-19, providing public services for 142,000 residents is costing almost £266m. While Welsh Government does not yet know how much money central Government at Westminster will provide so that it can be distributed to councils for 2019-20, we believe that a £10m local shortfall is likely.Council Leader Huw David
“At the same time, the number of vulnerable adults and children that we support is increasing, and we also don’t know whether things like teacher pay increases are going to be funded nationally. If they are not, schools may need to account for this additional cost as well.
“The next few years are going to be among the most challenging that this council has ever faced, and more hard decisions lay ahead. While we do not want to cut important services, we also have to deliver a balanced budget, and there is no way we can do this without making significant reductions.
“By participating in this budget consultation, you can tell us which services are important to you and where potential savings could be made. Your feedback, opinions and responses are a valuable part of this process, so please – help us to shape the future of Bridgend County Borough.”
Deputy Leader Hywel Williams added: “We want as many residents of Bridgend County Borough as possible to take part in the consultation, and for people of all ages and backgrounds to be able to have their say and help us to make informed decisions.
“To support this, Shaping Bridgend’s Future is available in a variety of different formats, including standard, easy-to-read, youth and large print editions. You can complete this at the council website or at any library in the county borough.
“A number of public engagement stands will be available, and we will be carrying out a series of workshops with school children as well as meeting with local groups and organisations.
“Whether you take part by visiting one of the public engagement stands, completing a survey or by joining in the conversation on our planned social media debate, don’t miss your chance to have your say and help us shape the budget for 2019-20."
The public engagement stands will be available on the following dates:
- Monday 24, 9.30am - Sarn Library
- Tuesday 25, 9:30am - Pencoed Library
- Wednesday 26, 12:30pm - Bridgend Carers Community Café
- Thursday 27, 2pm - Bettws Library
- Friday 28, 9:30am - Pyle Library
- Monday 1, 9:30am – Bridgend Library
- Friday 12, 9:30am – Maesteg Library
- Monday 22, 9:30am – Aberkenfig Library
- Tuesday 23, 9:30am – Y Llynfi
- Thursday 25, 9:30am – Pontycymer Library
- Monday 29, 9:30am – Porthcawl Library
- Wednesday 31, 10am – Ogmore Vale Life Centre
The consultation surveys can be found at the council's website, and residents can request hard copies by visiting libraries, emailing email@example.com or calling 01656 643664.
Alternative formats are available on request – the deadline for returning all completed consultation surveys is 18 November 2018.