I fully endorse the consultation response submitted on behalf of RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats to the Phase 2 proposals, and would just add the following comments:
Once again I can see no reason for the piecemeal approach that has been taken to the whole budget setting process, and am still of the firm opinion that there are other non front line services that should be looked at before cuts that will have such direct impact on the public.
The elderly and the disabled will as a result of some of these proposed changes be asked to pay a significant amount more than they currently do for services. Whilst I do not altogether disagree that there should be more alignment with charging processes elsewhere and that RCT has in some instances been over generous, then the financial problems should have been anticipated and the increases made over time. This shows a distinct lack of foresight from those involved in budget planning.
Regarding the cutbacks in leisure services then again there seems to be no solid reasoning behind some of the decisions. The deciding factors should surely be the usage and financial viability along with some consideration of the ease of access rather than what appears to be a desire to keep a minimum of two leisure centres in each area of RCT.
In the Rhondda the proposal is to keep open both Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach centres, despite the very low income versus expenditure return at the Rhondda Fach. The two centres are only 2 miles apart so what can be the justification for keeping both when there is a proposal to close Llantwit Fardre which has a much higher revenue recovery rate?
People in the wider Pontypridd town area stand to lose out as the proposals would close both Hawthorn and Bronwydd pools which are the ones that are most accessible to them. The fact that the Pontypridd constituency still has two leisure centres with swimming pools in Llantrisant and Tonyrefail does not help access wise.
There are no indications of when the centres are most heavily used, so how can we be sure that the reduction in hours is a sensible option? Again it seems we are reducing facilities available at the weekend yet with no back up that says they are not required.
Regarding the cut backs in Heritage services - once again the question is why hasn't anything been done in previous years to reduce costs and increase income? Also there appears to have been little or no effort to engage in joint working with the community or volunteers. Indeed the phase 2 proposals refer to the Cynon Museum being 'closed' rather than any attempt to look at alternatives. The Welsh Government appear recently to be putting some emphasis on our cultural and environmental heritage, yet in RCT the administration seem determined to rip it apart.
The museums we have should be playing an important part in a tourism strategy - but as my Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues and myself have been saying for some considerable time there does not appear to be one in RCT.
The proposal to close the Muni Arts Centre defies all logic. The figures given in the report appear to be manipulated to reach a certain conclusion and there is other information that has not been provided which should have been.
If you look at the attendance figure per event then percentage wise the Muni is better attended given that it has a much smaller capacity. It also puts on a far higher number of professional artistic events. Why is there no revenue recovery figure given as back up to this proposal as is given in relation to leisure centres?
What is the reasoning behind the selection criteria and scoring system? This would seem to be highly subjective. Why as a listed building is the Muni said to have no cultural significance? What is the basis for suggesting it has no sense of community ownership - and conversely what suggests the others do?
It could well be the case that a better run service would be provided outside of Council ownership, or in partnership, but this could apply to all three theatres. Once more we see this word closure without any alternatives seemingly having been considered.
This Council has a significant events department - surely it is not beyond them to increase the number of events put on at these venues and hence the income? This along with a review of costs would cut the deficit.
If these cuts are to be made then will there be a corresponding cut in the number of back room staff in the events section of the PR and Strategy Department? If front line services are to be cut then there must surely be a resultant decrease in support services.
I fully endorse the consultation response submitted on behalf of RCT Welsh Liberal Democrats to the Phase 2 proposals.
Cllr Mike Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat, Trallwn.