Council budget 2016-17 approved
Councillors yesterday (3rd February) approved Neath Port Talbot Council’s budget plans for the next financial year.
Councillor Alun Thomas
In a report to Council, Director of Finance and Corporate Services, Hywel Jenkins, outlined that the Council’s net budget for next year (2016/17) is £270.9m, requiring in-year savings of £11.5m.
The Council had undertaken consultation, ending in January, on draft budget saving proposals seeking to achieve £18m of savings. However following a better than expected provisional Local Government settlement from the Welsh Government and in response to consultation feedback, the Council has revised the proposed budget savings.
Many of the consultation responses received concerned library provision in Baglan and Skewen and also the proposed phased withdrawal of subsidy for Cefn Coed Colliery Museum. In both cases the Council will be working alongside community organisations to ensure that the facilities remain open, and in respect of the libraries is still in discussions regarding their transfer to the communities.
The Mobile Library Service will continue. Savings within the service will be explored through an innovative potential partnership with NPT Credit Union to share the vehicle and also achieved through the sale of a redundant second vehicle.
Investment in schools has been prioritised with a £1.8m increase in the delegated budget. An additional £1.2m has also been allocated to cover additional pressures such as out of county placements, education outside of school and to offset a reduction in the Families First grant, a service which supports vulnerable families and children.
Work on improving Children’s social services means that there are less Looked After Children in the county borough. In addition to providing better outcomes for children and their families, this will result in a saving of £1 million.
In adult social services, the Council has been working with service users on Direct Payments, so that people can choose to manage their own care instead of having services arranged for them by the council.
The Council is also looking at placements to ensure that the packages of care that people receive are appropriate and we get the best value for money from them.
Under the Environment directorate, savings from waste disposal will include the introduction of side waste collection arrangements to prevent the Council having to pay the £200 per tonne fine for not meeting Welsh Government recycling targets.
There will be new investment of £1.2m in 2016/17, for street scene improvements within communities. This will include strengthening still further the authority’s actions against fly tipping, and improving grass cutting and the street scene across the county borough.
Many of the budget saving measures will also be underpinned by improvements in digital services, a key Council priority which aims to meet an increasing demand for online self-service. Further work is also planned to address the barriers some residents may face in accessing and using ICT in their daily lives.
The Capital Programme will see an investment of £41m next year and more than £100m over the next three years. This will include significant investment in 21st Century Schools under the ‘Better Schools, Brighter Prospects’ programme; continued town centre regeneration to help to develop more local employment opportunities; and the final phase of a major public lighting improvement programme.
Public lighting investment in LED lamps, along with new columns across the county borough, will help to save money by allowing the Council to dim the lights in the very early hours of the morning. Pilot studies conducted in communities did not indicate any noticeable impact on residents.
The budget proposal assumes a 2.9% increase in Council Tax, with a Band D property paying £1,408.09. However around 85% of Neath Port Talbot residents are charged below this level, with the majority seeing an increase of less than 10 pence per day.
Council Leader Cllr Ali Thomas OBE said: “Once again the Council has risen to the challenge of setting a balanced budget for 2016/17 which ensures we will look after the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
“Underpinned by our Forward Financial Plan, public consultation and the better than expected financial settlement from the Welsh Government; this budget will invest £271 million in Council services for local people. When you take account of income and specific grants, this Council will be providing services of more than £400 million across the County Borough.”
“In addition, we will be investing over £100 million through our Capital Programme which will further improve facilities, services and job opportunities within our County Borough.”
“Under our six priority areas we will continue to invest in our improving Children’s Services, fund schools in line with the Welsh Government commitment; progress major regeneration investment across the County Borough; and work alongside partners to transform social care provision.”
“Neath Port Talbot has met the latest recycling targets of 58% a year early and we will continue to work with our communities to meet the next target of 64% by March 2020. We will also develop further our digital services to deliver choice and flexibility for our residents.”
“I give my thanks to all those who participated in the consultation process. Residents, service users, community groups, Councillors, Officers, Council staff and Trade Unions have all played their part in delivering this budget.”
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