Cabinet will recommend a final Budget for 2021/22 to Full Council next month after Members agreed the draft strategy that was recently consulted upon – with one addition relating to the freezing of 3G pitch charges next year.
At the meeting on Thursday, February 25, Cabinet Members considered the draft Budget strategy, along with the feedback received from the second phase of public consultation held over two weeks between January and February 2021.
The 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 within the strategy aim to be as fair as possible and protect frontline services, while targeting additional resources to key areas. A summary of the strategy is included at the bottom of this page.
A separate report to Thursday’s meeting outlined proposed levels of Council Fees and Charges, which will form part of the Budget for 2021/22. Cabinet Members agreed a standard 1.70% increase with several 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 increase by 10p and then be frozen until 2023.
During the meeting, Cabinet Members proposed an amendment in relation to hire charges for 3G pitches. In the draft strategy, 3G pitch charges were subject to a 1.70% increase– and Members proposed that they are now maintained at existing levels for next year, in line with Leisure for Life and playing field charges. Officers confirmed that this could be accommodated within next year’s Budget and Cabinet Members agreed this change.
Cabinet will now recommend the final Budget to Elected Members at the meeting of Full Council on March 10, 2021. If agreed, it would ensure the Council has set a legally balanced Budget for 2021/22 ahead of the new financial year starting on April 1.
Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said: “Cabinet has now agreed the Council’s final Budget for 2021/22, to be recommended to Full Council in March. Members concluded that this is a very positive outcome for residents in Rhondda Cynon Taf, with a Budget that includes no cuts, protects our vital services, invests in priority areas and proposes what is likely to be once again the lowest Council Tax rise in Wales.
“The proposals have identified an additional £4.6m efficiency savings for next year on top of the £6m delivered in each of the last three years – while the Schools Budget would be increased by £2.2m and see them fully funded for next year. The Non Domestic Rate Local Relief Scheme would be continued and extended with businesses receiving even greater support, while free parking would be introduced in Pontypridd and Aberdare from 3pm each weekday and after 10am on Saturdays, in addition to freezing the charges.
“This proposed Budget, featuring so many positive elements, was constructed on the back of a very challenging year for the Council and our communities beginning with Storm Dennis in February 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic which started a month later. Both emergencies are still very much having an effect a year on, and the Council continues to provide valued support to residents and businesses.
“I’m pleased the Council was able to reach so many people in its annual Budget consultation, despite being faced with COVID-19 restrictions which ruled out face-to-face engagement. Almost 1,500 people took part over two phases, making it a very worthwhile exercise. In phase two, 76% of respondents felt our Council Tax proposal was reasonable, 81% agreed with the approach to efficiency savings and 87% agreed with the proposals for Fees and Charges. These were key considerations in Cabinet’s decision to agree the strategy, while also freezing 3G pitch charges, on Thursday.”
The final Budget for 2021/22, which will be recommended by Cabinet to Full Council during March 2021, 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, 3G pitches, 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 26th February 2021