Posted: Thu 25th Feb 2016

Council tax increase reduced and investments planned in council’s budget /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Feb 25th, 2016

Newport City Council has agreed its budget for the forthcoming year with council tax set to increase by 3.9 %, 1.1% lower than the figure that was consulted on. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

For a household in a Band D property council tax will be £974.61, an extra £36.59 a year, which works out at around 7p a week. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Because of this lower level of increase, Newport continues to have the second lowest Council Tax in Wales, and is still amongst the lowest in the UK. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

With a better than expected settlement from the Welsh Government, it also means the Council can reduce the amount of savings it had to consider, and can also invest in other council services. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Leader of Newport City Council, Councillor Bob Bright, told the budget meeting on February 24: “We were able to completely remove 11 savings proposals based on the feedback received after consulting with a number of individuals and organisations. Stopping funding for city events, such as Newport Food Festival, have also been taken out of the savings proposals. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We were able to increase funding to schools, which now will receive a 3.5% increase, one of, if not the highest in this area and indeed Wales. Funding for on-going investments in the Council’s StreetScene infrastructure and assets is also agreed. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We have also introduced the concept of an “Energy Officer” to help provide a focussed approach to energy in relation to consumption, procurement, generation and the provision of opportunities for new businesses and employment. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“We introduced a ‘Small Business Growth Fund’ to offer a range of support to new entrepreneurs and small businesses looking for a ‘kick start’, thus helping to maintain Newport’s position as the best place in Wales to start a business. £25,000 will also be allocated to further the work with those who rough sleep”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The council also had to consider pressures on the budget including costs relating to the new National Living Wage; funding the increase in employer’s National Insurance costs and funding the costs of meeting the Welsh Language standards at £280,000 in 2016/17. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Cllr Bright continued: “These pressures are requirements that have to be met. They amount to nearly £4.3m in 2016/17 and must be met with no additional funding being provided. In addition, we also have the annual and regular pressures on the budget, such as inflationary pressures; on-going and increasing demand on social care; and investments in our schools. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The final 0.7% reduction in the settlement has resulted in a challenging budget, but with fewer savings having to be made than originally feared. As I have said in the past, it needs to be made clear that the grant makes up about 83% of our total budget, so the level of grant we receive is crucial to funding the services we provide. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The Cabinet considered the budget at our February meeting and we listened very carefully to the various responses received during the consultation process. As a result of this consideration, adjustments were made to the original proposals”. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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