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Second Phase of Tough Choices

budget gap of £70m

Deputy Leader, Cllr Paul Cannon QPM, announces Phase Two of tough choices to be considered by Cabinet

As a result of the UK Government’s austerity measures, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council will consider a second phase of tough service reductions in the New Year.

If agreed by Cabinet, the Council will begin consulting on the second phase of services, which will include reductions in leisure services across the County Borough.

The proposals, set to be considered by Cabinet on January 8, 2014, will also include options to reduce heritage and cultural services, street lighting, supported bus routes and also include proposed changes to adult social care charging arrangements.

These potential options for Cabinet to consider consulting upon would deliver savings of £3.7m in a full year and would form part of the Council’s Medium Term Financial Planning to bridge the £70m budget gap it faces over the next four years.

Commenting on the second phase proposals, County Borough Councillor Paul Cannon QPM, Deputy Leader of the Council said: “We have made clear that further phases of very tough choices would be necessary in order for the Council to deal with the effects of the UK Government’s austerity measures.

“The impacts of these measures are now very clearly being demonstrated locally. The Welsh Government has done its utmost to protect Wales from the decisions of the UK Government, but when their funding has been cut by £1.7Billion, it is inevitable that our local public services - just as they have already been in England - are to be severely affected.

“Just as the Thatcher Government decimated our nationalised industries, this Government is set to have a similar effect on our public services.

“I would stress that this second phase of proposals are just that - proposals, and if deemed appropriate by Cabinet, they will be fully consulted on before any final decisions are made.

“There is no escape from tough decisions in this difficult financial climate, but it must be remembered that even with these potential changes these services would still compare favourably across Wales.

“This position demonstrates how Councillors have, in very different times, prioritised frontline services and how now, when faced with making tough decisions to bridge a budget gap of £70m, are seeking to ensure the choices we may make still offers a good range and level of provision for our residents.

“The Council has made over £60m of efficiency savings in the last eight years, and to ensure that we protect our frontline services as far as is practicably possible, we will make an additional £4m in the next financial year.

“This will continue to be achieved by reviewing all of our back office functions to ensure significant savings are achieved with no effect on the services we provide to the public.

“Our critics will continue, in a very unconstructive manner, to suggest reductions in areas such as advertising or a reduction in senior management costs, though they forget we recently delivered over £100K in savings in senior management - but the opposition disagreed with our action.

“The fact is all areas of spending are being reviewed in addition to what has been considered as part of Phase One and the new proposed services changes to be considered in January.

“These kinds of choices are ones we have to consider seriously as we seek to bridge the £70m budget gap the Council faces.

“The current financial climate for the public sector has been set by the UK Government, and unfortunately this is not the end of the difficult choices the Council will need to consider as a consequence of their austerity measures.”

The Council’s Cabinet will also consider the detail of the consultation on its Phase One proposals and associated Equality Impact Assessments at the same meeting in January before reaching a decision on those matters.

Summary of Phase Two Proposals as follows:

Proposed Changes to Adult Social Care Charges - Rhondda Cynon Taf currently provides a number of areas with charging arrangements more generous than the levels stipulated by Welsh Government and below the average in Wales.

With this in mind the following changes are proposed which would result in the generation of £1.134m additional income:

Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) Disregard – the DRE is a deduction for additional costs which a disabled person, who pays an assessed charge towards the cost of their non-residential care may incur due to their disability.

There is no statutory requirement to apply any disregard and Rhondda Cynon Taf’s current level of 40% is relatively high and as it is applied universally.

It is proposed that the level of disregard be reduced to 5% resulting in £790K being generated in additional income per year.

Hourly / Daily Charges for Care – Currently non-residential care service users are charged £12.05 per hour for domiciliary care and £13.40 per visit for day services. The cost to the Council of providing these services is £17.50 per hour for domiciliary care and £77.37 per day services visit.

It is proposed that the hourly charge is increased to £17 per hour and that the day rate for day services is increased to £17 per visit.

Service users will be subject to a means tested financial assessment to asses their ability to pay and will pay a maximum of £50 per week. This proposal would generate additional income of £134K per year.

Charging for Tier 1 Telecare Services – It is proposed to increase the charge of Tier 1 Telecare Services to £2.35 per week which reflects the cost to the Council of providing the service. This proposal would generate additional income of £118K per year. Other Council’s generally charge above this rate.

Introduce a More Consistent Approach to Charging for Elderly and Mentally Infirm (EMI) Residential Care – The Council undertakes the assessment of a clients ability to pay and charges the client accordingly with the maximum charge for externally provided EMI Residential Care at £533 per week and for Council run homes at £503 per week.

It is proposed that charges to EMI residents in Council run care homes be increased to the same level as for those in externally run homes. This proposal would generate additional income of £60K per year.

Introduce Consistent Approach to Respite Charging – It is proposed that the Council introduces a consistent and more equitable model for charging respite care services based on a financial assessment of a service user’s ability to pay in line with the relevant guidance.

Currently the charging policy is not consistent in its treatment of service users receiving respite care across external and in-house care home providers. This proposal would generate additional income of £32K per year.

Proposed Changes to the Heritage Service - The service is currently predominantly centred around two venues – the Cynon Valley Museum and Gallery and the Rhondda Heritage Park. Other elements include a Service Level Agreement with Pontypridd Town Council for heritage services in association with the Pontypridd Museum.

There is no statutory basis to any part of the service. It is proposed that Cynon Valley Museum closes and the Service Level Agreement with Pontypridd Town Council is ended. There will also be a restructure of the Heritage Service and the Rhondda Heritage Park.

This proposal would save £350K per year.

Proposed Changes to the Arts and Cultural Services - The service currently operates three theatres – the Park and Dare (Treorchy), the Muni (Pontypridd) and the Coliseum (Aberdare). The service also contributes to arts development and collaborates with other authorities through the “ArtsConnect” initiative.

There is no statutory basis to the service. It is proposed that the Muni is closed and that a balanced but reduced programme centred around the two remaining theatres is put in place alongside the development of greater outreach activity.

This proposal would save £400K per year.

Proposed Changes to Street Lighting Provision – The Council currently operates and maintains 28,500 lights in residential areas and non-residential areas There is no statutory basis for the provision of street lighting.

The proposal suggests the part night switch off of all lights in non-residential areas, as well the part night switch off of every other streetlight in residential areas. This proposal would save £300K per year.

Proposed Changes to Supported Bus Routes – There are a number of routes across Rhondda Cynon Taf which are not commercially viable and are therefore supported by the Council.

The current annual budget in place to support such routes is £841K. In order to be able to reduce this budget by £400K to £441K a comprehensive impact assessment has been used to prioritise routes which would continue to be supported.

The identified routes may change as they could in the future be affected by external factors such as commercial decisions made by bus operators and Welsh Government funding levels. This proposal would save £400K.

Proposed Changes to Amend the Provision of Paddling Pools – The Council currently operates 12 paddling pools which are open over the 6 week summer holiday period. To ensure their continued operation approximately £100K would need to be spent on maintenance.

Consequently it is proposed that all paddling pools are closed. This proposal would save £181K.

Proposals to Amend the Leisure Service – The Council currently operates eight leisure centres with two in Rhondda, two in Cynon and four in Taff. There are also three stand alone ‘open access’ swimming pools.

There is no statutory requirement to provide leisure facilities. It is proposed that the three core centres of Rhondda Sports Centre, Michael Sobell Sports Centre and Aberdare Swimming Pool and Llantrisant Leisure Centre are retained alongside four satellite centres (Rhondda Fach Sports Centre, Abercynon Sports Centre, Tonyrefail Sports Centre and Hawthorn Leisure Centre) which will have reduced opening hours.

This reconfiguration of Leisure Services proposes the closure of Bronwydd Pool, Llantwit Fardre Leisure Centre and Hawthorn Swimming Pool. The Council will seek to transfer Hawthorn Swimming Pool to the neighbouring secondary school if possible.

This option attempts to balance retaining the best used facilities whilst also maintaining an equitable spread of the centres. This proposal would save £1.2m.

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