Posted: Thu 22nd Feb 2024

Senior Blaenau Gwent Labour Councillors Blame Tory UK Government for Council Tax Hike and Budget Cuts /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Feb 22nd, 2024

SENIOR Blaenau Gwent Labour councillors have placed the blame for a planned five per cent council tax hike and cuts of more than £6 million next year firmly at the door of the Tory UK Government
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, February 21 councillors looked at the draft budget for 2024/2025.
Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas took councillors through the in-depth report, which recommends a five per cent council tax rise as well proposals for delivering £6.27 million of financial efficiencies and budget cuts towards filling a funding gap.
This gap is between the £188.86 million the council expects to need to run its services such as schools, social services, rubbish collection and street lighting, and the £183.34 million total budget it expects to have.
This could rise to more than £10 million as the council also works on proposals to address funding gaps in future financial years which is predicted to be £34 million over the next five years.
To ensure the budget will finish up in a balanced position on March 31, 2025, an injection of £2.1 million from council reserves will be needed.
The council has already planned to use £4 million from its reserves to balance the 2023/2024 budget, but it is expected that this figure will come down to around £2 million by the end of the financial year.
Deputy council leader Cllr Helen Cunningham said: “It’s been a difficult budget to set.
“It was difficult last year, difficult this year and will be difficult next year.
“We have a daunting budget gap of £34 million over five years, which is an incredible thing for a council like ours to face.
“Let’s not be in any doubt, the choices we’ve had to make are down to political choices in Westminster by the reckless Tory government.
“We are in Tory austerity round two and we know it has already hammered our residents and much as we’ve tried to protect our services in the best way we possibly can, it’s important to reflect how absolutely challenging it has been for us to set this budget in the current climate.”
Education portfolio holder, Cllr Sue Edmunds said: “Nobody wants cuts, nobody wants to see this,
“But we have managed to come together and produce a budget that protects services and our residents as far as we possibly can.”
Cllr Thomas gave staff a pat on the back by pointing out that “some fantastic work” had taken place to try and lessen the use of the council’s reserves to balance this year’s budget.
Cllr Thomas said: “This does give us a bit more leeway.
“We asked everyone to be as efficient as possible and that has certainly been done.”
Councillors approved that the draft budget.
The draft budget will now go on to be finalised at a full council meeting next Tuesday, February 27.
Just before Christmas it was announced that Blaenau Gwent would receive a funding increase from the Welsh Government of 2.6 per cent for next year – which equates to £3.62 million.
After it was announced that £600 million was pumped into English local authorities by the UK Government, Wales received an extra £25 million in consequential funding.
The Welsh Government have shared this between social care and adding to council’s funding allocations.
After receiving this funding boost, Blaenau Gwent say it now expects to receive £3.95 million from the Welsh Government for next year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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