Swansea Council unveils its 2019/20 budget proposals
Swansea Council is looking at the possibility of raising council tax bills by 6.3 per cent as it faces a £24.4 million shortfall next year.
The authority's revealed its budget proposals - it wants to bring in an extra £7.3 million in council tax revenue – but this could change if the Welsh Government increases its funding offer in the coming weeks.
Council leader Rob Stewart says compulsory redundancies will be avoided as far as possible, but 161 full-time posts are at risk.
The authority is also facing increased costs for teachers' pay rises, which it did not set and is also expected to contribute significantly more to pension costs for teachers.
Council leader Rob Stewart is urging the UK Government to provide this £3 million pension sum for 2019/20.
“We have not got that money,” he said.
“I am not prepared to accept that this is a council-made problem.
“It has to be dealt with by the UK Government.”
To deal with the £24.4 million shortfall, the Labour administration is targeting a new programme of savings in combination with measures that have already been agreed.
In addition it also proposes bringing in an extra £7.3 million in council tax revenue – equating to a 6.3% rise – but no decisions have been taken as yet.
The 6.3% level is a Wales-wide council tax calculation, based on the amount of money which is expected to be handed to authorities by the Welsh Government.
Each authority sets its council tax every year, and the assumed 6.3% rise would drop if Cardiff Bay leaders increase their funding offer in the coming weeks.
Cllr Stewart said compulsory redundancies would be avoided in Swansea as far as possible, but 161 full-time posts are at risk as things stand.
In addition to this, 145 school posts are at risk. If the extra pension money materialises, this figure would be substantially lower — between 45 and 70.
There has been plenty of lobbying of the UK Treasury on the pension dispute, and Cllr Stewart said he was hopeful of a resolution.
In the meantime council leaders will consult with staff, trade unions and the public on the latest savings proposals, assuming cabinet support is given at a meeting on December 14.
Cllr Stewart is keen to stress the positives — namely that an extra £3.77 million is to be pumped into schools to fully cover rises in teachers’ pay.
He said the council has become smarter and more efficient, reducing back-office spending, cutting red tape and delivering significant savings via departmental commissioning reviews.
And there are plans to improve school buildings and invest in the city centre.
The cabinet report said: “The council’s overall aim is to protect front-line delivery of services as far as possible.
“However, while many things are important, not everything can be a priority.”
And there isn’t money left in reserves which can be used to cover overspends.
Opposition leader, councillor Chris Holley, called on the Welsh Government to raise their local Government settlement to avoid the prospect of a 6.3% council tax rise.
“On top of the near 5% council tax rises over the last few years, this increase is rather disproportionate,” he said.
“Maybe the new Welsh leader (Mark Drakeford) will take a different view, but I don’t think so.”
Cllr Holley said extra funding also had to be provided for social care.
“It is a demand-led service, and you can’t stop people getting old,” he said.
The council’s budget consultation will end on February 1 next year, paving the way for a further report.
Cabinet will discuss the new report on February 14 before full council sets a balanced budget, including council tax, on February 28.
Trade union Unison said it would consider the budget proposals in detail but described the prospect of job losses as “really grim news”.
Unison leaders delivered a petition to the Senedd on December 6 signed by hundreds of Swansea Council employees calling on the Welsh Government to improve local Government funding.
Unison regional organiser Simon Dunn said: “Swansea residents have every right to be very worried about the future of the vital public services they use.
“Library, leisure, youth, care and highways maintenance services, amongst other things, will be reduced further or close if even more local authority jobs disappear.”
He said Welsh councils were under “intolerable pressure”, and added: “The public demand for services is still there and there is absolutely no more scope for cuts in public services.”
HERE are some of the savings and income-generating proposals to balance the books in 2019/20:
- New income from the rental of office space in the Civic Centre (£275,000)
- Remodel library services to ensure a more equal service provision (£152,000)
- Review management arrangements of the Dylan Thomas Centre (£108,000)
- Expand parking enforcement camera car operation via use of other council vehicles (£20,000)
- Increase fees across bereavement services, registration services and Trading Standards, among others (£162,000)
- Explore partnership arrangements for botanical gardens (£75,000)
- Efficiency savings and increased income at museums, galleries and Grand Theatre (£55,000)
- Roll out local area coordinator service and review long-term care packages (£400,000)
- Create a single family support service (£1.15 million)
- Increase income and full cost recovery for adult and community learning (£119,000)