Posted on 07/12/2016

The Council is currently out and about across Rhondda Cynon Taf seeking the views of residents before early in the New Year agreeing our budget strategy for the new financial year.

It is very apparent from these events, alongside the conversations Councillors are having on the doorstep across the County that the difficulties austerity - which has been a UK Government policy since 2010 - causes to any public sector organisation are well understood.

Since then we have had to make difficult decisions to respond proactively to the cuts that were being imposed upon us and when we made those difficult choices it was very apparent, then, the impact those cuts would have.

Six years on and it is clear to me that people very much understand the difficulties we face and fully appreciate these circumstances are not of our making and sympathise with the predicament Elected Members are in.

A question which continues to arise is how, when our funding has been cut so dramatically, are we able to take forward such a massive programme of investment in a wide range of services. As a result of the proactive response we took to austerity back some years ago and through decisions such as restructuring senior management, increasing the efficiencies target and restructuring the Council’s borrowing and addressing our budget gap early, one-off money has been saved to take forward these improvements and support the RCT Invest programme. This approach is exactly what residents tell us they want at our various roadshows.

It is correct that the Council does face just under a £3M revenue budget gap for the next financial year, despite the protection afforded to local government funding by the Welsh Government, and we are working hard to address this shortfall in funding. However, this funding shortfall is recurring and cannot be solved by one-off funding. If £3m of this one-off funding was used to address next year’s budget gap it would simply increase the size of the following year’s gap; it would not in any way address the ongoing reduction in funding we face.

To put it simply, it's similar to paying an ongoing bill but finding you can't afford to cover the costs due to reduced funding being available, so you use some savings to help short term. This helps in the short term but is not a long term solution as the shortfall still remains ongoing.

The £7.5m funding which was agreed by Cabinet and Council last week to take forward major schemes such as Taff Vale in Pontypridd, future proofing of infrastructure in the Rhondda with the replacement of two bridges and the allocation towards building the Cross Valley Link in the Cynon Valley, has been secured thanks to our proactive approach in making efficiencies in response to the cuts we have faced. My colleagues and I are committed to being ambitious for the County and this strategic investment has the potential to drive forward economic growth and regeneration which will benefit the whole of Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Posted on 07/12/2016