Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet Members have responded to the views expressed through its Phase One budget consultation, with significant changes to its proposals, to address the £70M budget gap the Council faces over the next four years.
In response to the views expressed by the Public, two significant changes were agreed to the proposals to amend the Council’s Nursery Admission Criteria.
After considering the views expressed, the Cabinet agreed to delay the implementation of any changes until September 2014 instead of April, as originally consulted upon.
A further significant amendment to the original proposals was agreed by amending the date when a child would enter full-time nursery education to the term after a child turns four. The original proposal suggested this should happen in the September after a child’s fourth birthday.
Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, County Borough Councillor Paul Cannon QPM , who chaired the Cabinet meeting, said: “The decisions taken demonstrate clearly that the consultation process which we undertook on amending our nursery admission criteria was very much a valid one.
“Cabinet accepts that any amendments will not be popular, but the status quo is not an option when the Council faces a £70m budget gap over the next four years as a result of the UK Government’s austerity measures.
“Strong opinions have been expressed around the original April 2014 implementation date and Cabinet have responded to these concerns by amending the implementation of the changes to September 2014. This will reduce the original savings in the next financial year by £1.3m.
“Furthermore, many people have highlighted that while this is the case in the majority of other local authority areas, amending entry into full-time to the September after a child becomes four may mean, in some circumstances, that a child may be almost five before they enter full time nursery education.
“This is not unique but Cabinet recognise this issue and agreed another significant concession to ensure that Children will enter full-time nursery education the term directly following their fourth birthday.
“These major amendments to the original proposal reduce the savings of these changes by £0.8m in a full year and £0.4m in the next financial year meaning the full year saving will be £3.7m, not £4.5m moving forward.
“We have been forced to consider this very necessary saving because of the policies of the UK Government.
“When we do move to a part-time provision for three-year-olds, we will still compare favourably with other local authorities by offering 15 hours instead of the statutory 10 hours, as is the case in many other areas it must be stressed, with similar demographics to Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“It must also be noted that because of the severity of the cuts imposed on Wales’ Public Services, other local authorities are also considering reductions in their nursery provision as, like us, they have no alternatives.
“Once again the silence from our critics in terms of alternatives was deafening at the Cabinet meeting. They were happy to play to the gallery and ignore the fact that the status quo is not affordable, yet failed to propose an alternative way forward.
“These kinds of tough choices are not optional, and this and many other tough decisions will be necessary in the future. Where we have taken account of public opinion in respect of this proposal, other tough choices will be necessary to meet the cost of the amendments.
“Most importantly, this demonstrates that the consultation on these tough decisions is a genuine one, that we do want the public to express their opinions and that this Council will take account of those views.”
Other amendments were proposed and agreed by Cabinet to other services areas consulted upon as part of Phase One. These included recognising concerns around the geographical spread of Library Services, with Pontyclun and Porth Libraries now being retained. Similarly the Day Centre Proposal was amended, with the retention of Gilfach Goch Day Centre .
The changes to Meals on Wheels Provision and Youth Services which were included in the Phase One proposals were agreed as consulted upon.
Cllr Paul Cannon QPM added: “These further changes to both the Library and Day Centre proposals emphasise that Cabinet has listened to the consultation and taken consideration of the views expressed.
“As was made clear at the meeting, tough decisions cannot be avoid but where valid issues have been expressed we have responded as far as is practically possible and affordable.”
In an earlier meeting, the Council’s Cabinet also agreed to consult upon the Phase Two budget proposals it announced in December. A four-week consultation process will shortly commence.
DETAIL OF SERVICE CHANGES:
Changes to Admissions for Pre-Nursery and Nursery
The agreed change will see pupils starting school the term following their third birthday on a part-time basis before turning full-time from the term after their fourth birthday. Changes will be implemented from September 2014.
This approach will still be as generous as the level of provision provided in the majority of Councils across Wales, and in excess of the statutory requirement as it provides half day provision, which is above the minimum requirement of 10 hours per week, as well as offering full-time provision from the term after the child’s fourth birthday compared with the statutory minimum of full-time provision from the term after a child’s fifth birthday.
This proposal will save £3.7 million p.a.
Changes to the Meals on Wheels Service
The current Meals on Wheels service provides hot meals, prime cooked and delivered to clients homes ready for consumption seven days a week.
The agreed change will see hot meals being delivered each day to client’s homes ready for consumption Monday to Friday with two additional chilled meals being delivered on a Friday for consumption over the weekend.
Rhondda Cynon Taf will remain the only local authority in Wales to offer a seven day a week Meals on Wheels Service.
This proposal will save £300k p.a.
Changes to Youth Provision
The agreed change will see all youth provision clustered around the County Borough’s 17 secondary school hubs.
Provision will be full time (term time and holidays) and will be delivered by School and Community Youth Work Teams based at each of the 17 secondary schools.
This will see youth service provision across all areas of the County Borough with a service which compares very favourably with that delivered throughout the rest of Wales.
This proposal will save £2.2 million p.a.
Changes to the Library Service
Rhondda Cynon Taf currently operates 26 libraries as well as mobile library, housebound, school library and deposit collection services. Currently Rhondda Cynon Taf provides more libraries than any other local authority in Wales.
The agreed change will see the number of libraries reduced to 12 with four each in Rhondda, Cynon and Taf. This will be supplemented with an enhanced mobile library service in every part of RCT which will offer a combination of timetabled outreach services and a timetabled service at identified sites in the vicinity of closed static libraries and town centre/supermarket/public access locations.
Rhondda Cynon Taf will still offer a good level of Library provision when compared with other local authorities and comply fully with statutory requirements.
This proposal will save £800k p.a.
Treorchy/ Tonypandy/Ferndale/ Porth
Treherbert/ Ton Pentre/ Penygraig/Tylorstown/Ynyshir/Maerdy
Changes to Day Centres
The Council currently operates 19 open access community day centres across the County Borough. There is no statutory basis to the service.
The agreed change will see the number of day centres reduced to nine with standardised opening hours of 10am – 4pm across the board. The nine centres to remain have capacity to respond to any potential increase in service users travelling from the centres to close.
This proposal will save £600k p.a.
Alec Jones Porth/ Teifi House Maerdy/ Nazareth House Williamstown/ Brynnar Jones Gelli
Dai Davies Cymmer/ Edith May Ynyshir/ Wesley Ferndale/ Noddfa Treorchy/ Llewellyn Pentre/ Combine House Tonypandy/ Dan Murphy Trealaw
RETAIN: St Mair’s Aberdare/Mountain Ash
Pontypridd/St George’s Tonyrefail/Gilfach Goch