The Council is once again consulting with residents to shape our budget for the 2019/20 financial year.
After facing an initial projected budget gap of just under £17m, which reduced to £9.9m by July 2018 following the Council being able to successfully make our planned savings. The indicated 0.3% increase in funding for Rhondda Cynon Taf through the Welsh Government’s provisional settlement was clearly a positive for the Local Authority, and it means that we are now facing a reduced budget gap of £5.9m. This does not, however, mean that we can ease off on our approach to make in-house efficiency savings, and it still means that we are facing significant challenges in closing our budget gap, as inflation and the rising demand on our services actually mean that this funding increase is still a real terms cash cut for the Local Authority.
We are conscious of the need to provide services that our residents can be proud of, whilst always considering the need to avoid transferring the strain of austerity directly on to our residents, and we have continued to demonstrate our consistent and proactive approach to managing our finances over the course of this financial year - highlighted by the ambitious target of £6m in efficiency savings being met last year alone. However, as our budgets continue to shrink in real terms, achieving these types of efficiency savings are becoming increasingly difficult for us to sustain, although we will continue to look for innovative ways to avoid having to make tough decisions where possible.
An integral part of our budget setting process is the Council’s engagement with our residents, as we know that you are at the core of the range of services we provide. Last year, almost 1,600 people provided us with crucial feedback, either through face-to-face engagement events at our town centres, leisure centres and libraries; or through the Council’s dedicated online budget simulator. To build on this, we are keeping the same format for this year’s process, and I would urge all residents to find out more at this link.
Despite austerity, we are continuing to deliver our capital investment programme, and we have made excellent progress on all of the priorities outlined at the beginning of this Council term. By taking part in this process, you can help us to identify your priorities so that we can better target our spending approach to deliver, where possible, the improvements that you wish to see in your communities.
Based on the feedback we received last year, we have been able to maintain our programme of capital investment to deliver improvements to the areas that matter to you right across RCT - from our highways, to our schools, our leisure and play facilities, and our town centres.