Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet will next week consider the consequences of cuts to public sector funding.
Officers of the Council are due to present proposals for the Cabinet to plan how the Council will reduce its spending to meet the £9.6m gap in funding it faces this year as a result of the UK Government austerity measures this year.
County Borough Councillor Anthony Christopher, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said: “The Cabinet is faced with making very tough and unpalatable decisions that, unfortunately, are very necessary, as a result of the cuts to public sector funding being imposed on Wales by the UK Government.
“Like every other Council in Wales, indeed across the UK, we are having to consider how we can cut our cloth accordingly to meet these very difficult financial circumstances.
“In Rhondda Cynon Taf, we want to ensure as far as we possibly can that we protect the essential services local people heavily rely upon and do as much as we can to safeguard local jobs.
“The financial outlook is bleaker than anyone anticipated and this means that we will have to consider options we did not believe would be necessary six months ago.
“This means very tough decisions now and the need for further difficult decisions in the future. We are not making these decisions out of choice, but out of necessity as we have to work within the significant reduction in resources imposed by the UK Government.
“One such example is our commitment to maintain weekly collection of all waste. As the former Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, I have always championed the value of weekly collections of all waste.
“But so severe are the challenges we face, that our previous view of maintaining this service will need to be reconsidered.
“This is not a proposal that has come forward without significant discussion, but by maintaining our weekly collection cycle for recycling and having fortnightly collections for black bag waste, we can save a significant amount of money and so reduce the need for even tougher decisions in other areas.
“We are also one of the only councils in Wales that, so far, has not to adopted this approach and it is evident that this approach is working satisfactorily in many other areas.
“It is apparent from the proposals that I and my Cabinet wish that we did not have to consider them, but we have a duty to manage the finances of this Council and cannot shy away from difficult decisions, including reviewing our charging policies, in order to continue to offer our core services and those that would otherwise be under threat.
“We will also need to set a responsible level of Council Tax to deal with these difficult times.
“Setting Council Tax at a low level will simply force further tough decisions and require even deeper services cuts that will impact on the public. And whilst there was a mix of views in the feedback from the first phase of our consultation, many accept this fact and appreciate the difficult situation we find ourselves in.
“In previous years, people in receipt of benefit have been shielded from the annual increase in Council Tax. Unfortunately, for the first time these families are set to be forced to make a contribution to their Council Tax as a result of the, uncaring, benefit changes imposed by the UK Government.
“So severe and savage are cuts being imposed by the UK Government, that to continue to protect schools and social care, we will have to reduce remaining service budget by up to 25% over the course of this administration. This demonstrates the magnitude of the decisions we face over the medium term.
“Despite the unprecedented financial challenges we have before us, we will do our upmost to ensure that investment is made available to continue to improve school standards and protect the young and elderly.
“We will also ensure that, where we can, we create employment opportunities for young people with the present Apprenticeship scheme being expanded, as well as further investment in new schools and on the roads within our area.
“We will also ensure that the Council is resourced as best it can be to meet the fallout from the UK Government’s Welfare Reform Proposals which are set to take around £30M out of our local economy and hit some of the most vulnerable people in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“These draconian changes to welfare by the UK Government will inevitably bring addition financial pressures to bear on this Council and compound the need for tough decisions to meet this severe financial strain.
“We will need to revaluate how we deliver all our services to ensure that the most important are safeguarded and continue to improve. Whilst tough, we will take these very necessary decisions to mitigate as best we can the effect of these difficult economic times.
“We know from the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement that the Financial Outlook continues to be bleak for the public sector and, therefore, in addition to these initial proposals the Council will to consider even tough choices in the coming year.”
To bridge the £9.6M budget gap the Council faces, the Cabinet are set to consider the following decisions as potential options:
Weekly Recycling Collections with Fortnightly Residual Waste (Black bags and bins) Collections
By moving to a weekly recycling collection with a fortnightly residual waste collection a saving of £1.5m can be achieved, which can be directed at protecting other essential frontline services.
The Council will collect all recycling, including food and nappies weekly with non recyclable black bag waste being collected fortnightly.
All trade waste will continue to be collected weekly. It is anticipated that this will also encourage a better level of participation in recycling.
Ensuring Every Part of the Council Works Efficiently and Effectively
Deliver over £4m worth of efficiencies savings across all Council departments and areas of service. In addition new arrangements for the delivery of street cleansing and grass-cutting arrangements will achieve an additional £500K saving.
Since 2004, the Council has already achieved £56m worth of efficiency through different approaches to service delivery and reductions in senior management headcount as part of its Medium Term Financial Planning.
Bulky Refuse Collection Charges
To protect other areas of service and safeguard this valued service proposals to introduce a £10 charge for the collection of up to three bulky waste items. Rhondda Cynon Taf is currently one of the only Councils in Wales to not charge for this service, and this move brings Rhondda Cynon Taf into them.
Reduction in Marketing and Events Funding
As a result of the difficult financial climate, it is proposed to reduce the marketing and events budget by around £200k. As part of this, the Council’s current events programme will be revised. To achieve additional savings, the Council will seek to use alternative methods to meet its statutory advertisement obligations and look to use other forms of communication with the public such as social media to reduce its marketing costs.
Review of Service Charges
To ensure as many essential services are protected as possible despite the reductions in funding, it is proposed to increase services charges by 5% above Retail Price Index.
This will mean that many of the services the Council provides that would otherwise be under threat can be safeguarded. In the main this will mean a 10-20p increase on the services the Council charges for already. This would deliver an additional £1m to help protect frontline services.
Council Tax Levels
A Council Tax Level of 3.95% is proposed for Members to consider. This is seen as a sensible level in light of significant budget gap the Council faces. Each additional one percent of Council Tax raises £840k to support key Council services. In light of this, this Council Tax Level is proposed to safeguard as many Council services as possible.
This means that the average Band A property in Rhondda Cynon Taf will see a 55 pence increase per week.
The report of the Council’s Corporate Management which is due to be presented to the Cabinet on Monday 21st January . Read the report online on the Council and Democracy Pages