Posted on 03/03/2017

This week saw the Council consider one of its biggest annual decisions, namely setting our budget for the next financial year.

Thanks to the strong financial management we have maintained throughout this challenging economic period, we have been able to create further opportunities to invest in our county borough.

This period of austerity for public finances, has, without a doubt, presented huge challenges over recent financial years, however throughout, we have sought to be proactive in our approach.

This has meant, unlike any other Council in Wales, we have been able to deliver one of this Council’s largest Capital Programmes through the £200M #RCTinvest programme.

It is on these strong foundations that we have been able to develop a budget for 2017/18, which will deliver an extra £7.5M investment over and above our normal core budget in key infrastructure, from parks and play areas to major highway schemes.

Supported by a  better than anticipated settlement from the Welsh Government, we have been able to deliver an additional £2.173M for school budgets in Rhondda Cynon Taf, with a further £2M extra for school building repairs and set the lowest percentage Council Tax increase in the history of this Council and the second lowest rise in Wales.

Our budget supports our ambitions for RCT moving forward, including delivering upon our commitment to remove car parking charges in Tonypandy, Porth & Mountain Ash and supporting significant reductions in Pontypridd and Aberdare.

It is providing the opportunity to deliver upgrades to 34 additional play areas as part of #RCTinvest, three new 3G facilities at Abercynon, Meardy and Church Village. We will also be exploring the potential for an indoor 3G pitch at Rhondda Fach Sports Centre.

Major investment in the delivery of park and ride facilities across RCT is supported as part of this budget, with construction work at Pontyclun and Porth Phase 2 planned in the coming year, and the development of two major highway schemes will also be supported – namely the A4119 in Tonyrefail and the Llanharan Bypass.

£1.1M is allocated to continuing to take forward the Cross Valley Link, which has made significant progress over the last two years.  While our significant investment in transport infrastructure may not grab many headlines, it is hugely important, as it future proofs these vital aspects of our highway network.

We will be introducing the full Living Wage Foundation rate from April 1st  as part of this budget, which will not only benefit those staff who deliver vital services directly for residents, but will also impact positively on the wider local economy.

The Council has needed to save over £100M over the last five years; it is therefore not only notable that we can make this significant investment locally, but that there are no cuts to frontline services as part of this budget.

We have again set ourselves a challenging target of a further £6M worth of efficiencies next year but I am confident we can deliver upon this figure, based on our strong track record to date, and continue to protect the frontline through this prudent approach.

Fundamental to our priority of taking RCT forward, will be the funding we have included for our contribution to progress the City Deal, which will be crucial in shaping the wider economic prosperity of RCT and the Valleys.

I hope this budget shows the ambition this Council has for RCT and that despite the significant cuts to funding Wales’ public sector has received, we have sought to respond through investment across the range of services and facilities we provide, to ensure we continue taking RCT forward.

I would like to place on record my thanks to everyone who has engaged in the budget setting process, making your views known and presenting alternatives through our extensive consultation process. Your involvement has played a key part in setting the future direction for RCT, as the building blocks laid through this year’s budget will be crucial to meeting the financials challenges we will face in coming years.

Posted on 03/03/2017