Consultation on Service Changes Begins
Following Cabinet’s decision to seek the views of residents regarding proposed changes to Library services, Youth Engagement and Participation Services and Supported Bus Routes, an eight week consultation will begin on Monday 23rd November.
A targeted eight week consultation will also be undertaken with anyone potentially affected by Day Nursery service change proposals.
Cabinet are considering these services changes in preparation for the likely impact of the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which could see the Council’s current estimated three year budget gap of £63.2million increase further.
Welsh Government and local councils are anticipating further cuts to public expenditure will be announced by the UK Government in the CSR.
Commenting on the proposals, County Borough Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said: “Before we receive detail of the Comprehensive Spending Review, cuts to public sector spending already indicated mean the Council faces a funding shortfall of over £63m over the next three years.
“To deal with this massive financial challenge, the Council is seeking to make savings in a number of areas.
“Proposals are already being consulted upon to reduce our senior management costs (£1.7m over the last 12 months) and we are seeking to make as many ‘back office’ efficiencies as possible to protect frontline services from the impact of UK Government cuts.
“Faced with such a significant funding shortfall moving forward, we reluctantly need to consider a number of potential service changes.
“The fact that some of the areas proposed for consideration are ones which have already been affected is a reminder of how severe the cuts to public sector funding are.
“The proposals now being consulted upon for Libraries, Youth Services and Supported Bus Routes, seek to maintain these services as far as is possible within the reduced funding levels we expect to receive, and, based on the proposals presented, they would still ensure the levels of services provided in RCT remain comparatively high when compared with other councils.
“These are very difficult decisions once again for the Cabinet to consider, but we are faced with no alternative but to consider such service changes given the financial circumstances.
“These options have the potential to realise savings of over £1m. The Council needs to achieve total savings of around £27m to set a balanced and legal budget for 2016/17 financial year with the majority of savings to be found through continued efficiencies and pursuing smarter ways of working to deliver services.
“In order to ensure we capture the views of residents and service users who may be affected by these proposals, a comprehensive eight week consultation process will now take place with opportunities for people to give their views at a number of events, via the survey, through a twitter takeover or by letter or email.
“We value the views of residents and service users, and we have consistently shown that when considering previous service change proposals. We do listen and make amendments to proposals based on the feedback we receive.
“We do however have a duty to set a balanced budget and savings have to be identified meaning amendments to these proposals resulting in reduced savings will lead to further savings needing to be found in other service areas.
“The late timing of the CSR is set to cause chaos for budget setting in all public sector organisations this year. We would normally know the broad detail of our funding for the next financial year during October.
“All public sector funding flows from London, so the Welsh Government will not know how much Wales’ funding has been cut until the CSR is announced, meaning local authorities cannot consider their own budget setting processes until December.
“This will mean a huge rush to set a balanced budget by the legally set date of the 11th March.
“On top of the cuts by stealth the public sector are set to experience through the UK Government’s changes to National Insurance and other areas, this timescale makes an already difficult financial situation even worse.
“As Councillors we are faced with no alternative other than to respond in order to ensure we continue to comply with our statutory obligations.”
The Council has already identified efficiencies of £69m to date and a further £6M will need to be identified within the next financial year to protect frontline services.
Summary of service change proposals:
Library Service - Retain all the current libraries but reduce the overall weekly opening hours of 10 of the 13 branch libraries to 31.5 hours per library and reduce the Book Fund – saving £0.327m
Youth Services – Revise management and staff structures and reduce the enrichment budget by 10% to continue delivering this service - saving £0.384m
Supported Bus Routes – Reduce the number of local bus routes subsidised by the Council - saving £0.050m
Day Nurseries – Close Llantrisant Nursery and review and revise staffing and fee paying arrangements to continue providing all other Local Authority Day Care Pre-school Nurseries – saving £0.176m
Consultation will run from Monday 23rd November until 5pm on January 18th 2016.
Further details about the proposals and how you can have your say can be found on the Budget Challenge Page.