"This really is an Armageddon scenario" - Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Leader,
As a result of UK Government austerity measures, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is set to face an estimated budget gap of “at least” £56m over the next four years.
The first phase of tough decisions to bridge the Council’s funding gap will be considered by Cabinet next week.
Forced with making significant reductions in service provision, Cabinet will consider a range of options to bridge the funding gap and whether it should initiate a consultation on those proposals. Five initial proposals will be considered with further options being brought forward in the coming weeks.
County Borough Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council said: “Knowing how significantly the UK Government has reduced funding to Wales, my colleagues and I have continually warned how local services will need to be dramatically reduced.
“This really is an Armageddon scenario for local government which will have a severe impact on local services. No community in our area will be left unaffected during these difficult times.
“Faced with such savage cuts to public sector funding, the Cabinet will next week begin considering the first set of options to bridge the estimated budget gap it faces of at least £56m over the next four years.
"It is also clear from initial indications, in advance of this week’s Local Government Settlement, that this figure is likely to increase.
“As stated previously, these initial set of proposals are certainly not ones which Councillors would want to have to decide whether they should initiate a consultation on, but the Council has to consider alternatives to existing service levels when faced with the significant impact the UK Governments’ Austerity Measures are having on local government funding in Wales.
“By 2015/16 Wales funding will have been cut by £1.6 billion and with a reduction of this magnitude it is simply impossible for Welsh Ministers to fully protect Wales’ frontline services from the decisions of the UK Government.
“These are incredibly difficult proposals, and because the Welsh Government has done its utmost to protect Wales’ public services from the worst of the UK Government’s cuts, this is the first financial year that “all” our communities will really feel the pain and the realities of Mr Osborne’s public sector funding cuts.
“Despite these incredibly difficult and austere times we will nevertheless work tirelessly to ensure that as far as we practicably can we protect the most vulnerable in our communities and that any proposals taken forward to reshape local services would offer the best possible spread of provision within the significantly reduced resources we have available.
“The proposals being put before Cabinet next week, would deliver savings of around £8m in a full year demonstrating clearly how severe future decisions will need to be as we move towards filling a potential budget gap in excess of £56m.
“Like Rhondda Cynon Taf, every local authority in Wales will be forced to make these similar tough decisions.
“Despite the reductions in services that could eventually arise as a result of what Cabinet may agree to consult on, I am confident the level and range of provision offered in Rhondda Cynon Taf will continue to compare favourably with other local authorities in South Wales.
“We will consult widely with the public and those service users affected and will take due consideration of the comments and concerns made before reaching a final decision at the end of a four week consultation period.
“We will work hard with our staff and Trades Unions to deal with things as sensitively as we can but due to the severity of the cuts compulsory redundancies can no longer be ruled out."
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Cabinet will consider options for amending the five services areas next week:
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS TO BE CONSIDERED
Proposed Changes to Admissions for Pre-Nursery and Nursery
The current school admission arrangements in Rhondda Cynon Taf are in excess of the statutory requirement (Welsh Government’s minimum required level of provision) and are above what most other authorities across Wales provide.
The proposed change would see pupils starting school the term following their 3rd birthday on a part time basis before turning full-time when they start Reception the September after their 4th birthday.
This approach would 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; and it provides full time provision at reception from the September before the child’s 5th birthday which is above the statutory minimum of full time provision from the term after a child’s 5th birthday.
This proposal would save £4.5 million p.a.
Proposed 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, 7 days a week.
The proposed change would consist of hot meals being delivered each day to client’s homes ready for consumption Monday to Friday with 2 additional chilled meals being delivered on a Friday for consumption over the weekend.
Rhondda Cynon Taf would remain the only local authority in Wales to offer a seven-day a week Meals on Wheels Service.
This proposal would save £300k p.a.
Proposed Changes to Youth Provision
The Council’s current arrangements provide a range of youth services targeting 11-25 year olds who live and/or attend school in Rhondda Cynon Taf. These services comprise E3+ and 5x60, youth clubs, detached (street based) youth work, holiday programmes and some alternative curriculum programmes.
The service also offers a range of curriculum enrichment activities to many schools, including Duke of Edinburgh, outdoor and environmental education, PSHE programmes including sexual health, drug and alcohol awareness, positive mental health and a large range of non-formal accredited qualifications.
The proposed change would see all youth provision clustered around the County Borough’s 17 secondary school Hubs. Provision would be full time (term time and holidays) and would be delivered by School and Community Youth Work Teams based at each of the 17 secondary schools.
This would 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 would save £2.2 million p.a.
Proposed Changes to the Library Service
Rhondda Cynon Taf currently operates 26 libraries as well as mobile library, housebound, schools library and deposit collection services. Currently Rhondda Cynon Taf provides more libraries than any other local authority in Wales
The proposed change would see the number of libraries reduced to 12 with 4 each in Rhondda, Cynon and Taf.
This would 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.
If these changes were effected Rhondda Cynon Taf would still offer a good level of Library provision when compared with other local authorities and comply fully with statutory requirements.
This proposal would save £800k p.a.
RETAIN: Treorchy/ Tonypandy/Ferndale/ Tylorstown
CLOSURE: Treherbert/ Ton Pentre/ Penygraig/Porth/Ynyshir/Maerdy
RETAIN: Hirwaun/Aberdare/Mt Ash/Abercynon
RETAIN: Pontypridd/Rhydfelin/Church Village/Llantrisant
CLOSURE: Cilfynydd/ Tonyrefail/ Nantgarw/ Beddau/ Pontyclun
The Council will deliver an enhanced Mobile Library Service would operate in every part of RCT to support these changes
Proposed 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 proposed change would see the number of Day Centres reduced to 9 with standardised opening hours of 10am – 4pm across the board. The 9 centres proposed to remain have capacity to respond to any potential increase in service users travelling from the centres put forward to close.
In the Rhondda there would be a retained centre no further than 1.9 miles away and within Taf Ely a retained day centre would be no more than 3.8 miles away from those put forward for closure.
This proposal would save £600k p.a.
RETAIN: Alec Jones Porth/ Teifi House Maerdy/ Nazareth House Williamstown/ Brynnar Jones Gelli
CLOSURE: Dai Davies Cymmer/ Edith May Ynyshir/ Wesley Ferndale/ Noddfa Treorchy/ Llewellyn Pentre/ Combine House Tonypandy/ Dan Murphy Trealaw
RETAIN: St Mairs Aberdare/ Mountain Ash
RETAIN: Pontypridd/ St Georges Tonyrefail/ Pontyclun
CLOSURE: Beddau/Rhydfelin/ Gilfach Goch