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Cabinet to consider 2021/22 Budget following second phase of consultation

Council tax levels by billing authority and band (£)

https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Local-Government/Finance/Council-Tax/Levels/counciltaxlevels-by-billingauthority-band

Residents in Rhondda Cynon Taf pay some of the highest council tax in Wales and now Labour-run RCTC what to increase charges when cutting services.

Cabinet will discuss the Council’s proposed Budget for 2021/22 next week, taking into consideration feedback received in the latest phase of consultation. 

On Thursday, February 25, Cabinet will consider the draft Budget Strategy along with the feedback received from a second phase of public consultation. Members will now have the opportunity to reconsider the proposals before recommending a final Budget for 2021/22 to Full Council in March 2021.

The draft strategy is based on a 3.8% increase in Welsh Government funding for Rhondda Cynon Taf, as outlined in the Provisional Local Government Settlement for next year. The proposals included in the draft strategy aim to be as fair as possible and protect frontline services, while targeting resources to key areas. A summary of the strategy is included at the bottom of this page.

A separate report for Thursday’s meeting outlines the proposed levels of Council Fees and Charges for next year, which will form part of the Budget for 2021/22. It proposes a standard 1.70% increase with a number of notable exceptions – including a nil increase for Leisure for Life, Car Park Charges, Summer and Winter Playing Fees, School Meals, Bereavement Fees, Lido Ponty and Rhondda Heritage Park. Meals on Wheels and Day Centre Meals would be increased by 10p per meal, and would then be frozen until 2023.

The majority of the recent consultation was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions, though residents could take part via phone, letter or paper survey. The survey was available on the Council’s website and a social media Q&A session with Senior Officers and the Council Leader took place on February 11. Targeted sessions and engagement were held with Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Youth Forum, Older Persons Advisory Group, Disability Forum, schools, Finance & Performance Scrutiny Committee, School Budget Forum and Community Liaison Committee.

More than 76% of survey respondents felt the proposed 2.65% Council Tax increase was reasonable, while 81% agreed the proposed approach to efficiency savings and 87% agreed with the proposals for Fees and Charges. In total, 338 people were engaged in the process, and a broader summary of the responses received are included within Thursday’s Cabinet report.

The first phase of consultation for the 2021/22 Budget, held between October and December 2020, focused on key issues such as investment priorities and efficiency savings. Almost 1,500 people have been engaged with the budget setting process for next year, across both phases of consultation.

Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said: “Cabinet Members will consider the two reports during Thursday’s meeting, relating to the overall draft Budget and the setting of Fees and Charges levels which forms an important part of the strategy. The draft Budget will be considered taking into account the feedback received in both phases of consultation with residents, and will then be recommended to Full Council next month.

“The Council has a strong track record of carrying out extensive engagement exercises with residents over a variety of key issues – and the annual Budget consultation has become a key part of the Council’s calendar.

“The COVID-19 restrictions have meant that this year’s consultation has had to operate differently – particularly in relation to the face-to-face interaction which we have welcomed with residents in previous years. For example, Town Centre roadshows have been a successful method of engagement with members of the public in the past, but unfortunately these could not take place this year in order to follow social distancing guidelines and ensure everyone’s safety.

“However, it is still a positive achievement that the Council has been able to engage with almost 1,500 residents across the two phases of consultation, proving it to be a very worthwhile exercise once again. The process this year was an online approach, but also provided important opportunities for those who could not engage digitally to have their say via letter and phone. Cabinet will consider the responses on Thursday, and determine whether to proceed with the proposals as they were consulted upon, or make any amendments.”

The draft Budget strategy that was consulted upon includes:

  • A Schools Budget increase of £2.2m, recognising schools as a key priority and fully-funding their requirements for next year.
  • Protecting Council services meaning a no cuts Budget.
  • Delivery of £4.6m in further efficiencies, on top of the £6m per year savings achieved across Council services in each of the last three years.
  • A Council Tax increase of 2.65%, which is below what was initially consulted upon in phase 1 and is set to once again be the lowest rise in Wales for 2021/22.
  • Continuation of the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) Local Relief Scheme, and increasing to £350 per qualifying business for 2021/22.
  • Car parking to be made free, after 3pm on weekdays and after 10am on Saturdays.
  • Climate Change and Carbon Reduction, a core budget of £100,000 would be put in place to increase the pace of work in this area.
  • A freeze on charges, for Leisure for Life, car parks, sports fields, Lido Ponty/Rhondda Heritage Park, Bereavement Fees and school meals.
  • Additional targeted resources:
    • £200,000 to allow for the recruitment of a further six Graduate Officers over and above the commitment already made under the Council’s successful Graduate Scheme.
    • £200,000 for Public Health and Protection to increase resilience in the service and allow additional resources to be employed.
    • £50,000 in Flood Prevention Support for an advisory resource to support residents and businesses.
    • £50,000 for Well-being support programmes to be developed and extended across the workforce.
    • £75,000 for an additional Overgrowth Team to be put in place to further enhance the work to keep our local environment clean and tidy.
    • £500,000 for a new Drainage Team to bolster and increase the pace of works to repair and improve drainage systems is also included in the proposed budget.
Posted on Friday 19th February 2021