Newport City Council Proposes Cuts and Reforms to Save £5 Million
Newport City Council has laid out plans to cut and reform services as it tries to make £5 million in savings.
The measures are necessary if the council is to produce a balanced budget next year, it said.
The council has proposed increasing council tax bills by 8.5% to shore up funds, and will slash spending across several areas in a bid to keep essential services running.
The proposed measures include the shutting of some libraries, bin replacement fees, and a crackdown on people falsely claiming council tax reductions.
Cuts to the council’s workforce have been proposed, but in some cases these will be for roles which are currently vacant.
The council also intends to reduce its reliance on external or third party contracts, which it hopes will save more money.
The public will be consulted on some of the budget proposals, but many others can be passed by the council without consultation, using delegated powers.
Here’s how Newport City Council is proposing to save money in next year’s budget:
Social care and children
Newport will follow the Welsh Government’s ambition to “radically reform” services for looked-after children by “eliminating private profit” by 2027. Councils must move service in-house or to not-for-profit suppliers.
In adult social care, the council has proposed improving assessments and community resources to gain a “small reduction” in the number of care packages it provides. Using “assisted technology” equipment could have a “positive impact” on the amount of practical care required.
Spending on residential care and community care budgets will be lowered after the authority found income raised by service users “consistently exceeded the budget forecast”. Users pay rates set nationally by the Welsh Government.
Support for vulnerable adults will be increased, helping them to become more independent and hopefully preventing or minimising their need for more formal care.
Newport’s contributions to a regional frailty service will also be cut after the council overpaid in the past two years.
Citizens Advice will receive council grant funding to take over support for people whose unresolved debt issues mean they are at risk of homelessness. This will “focus on debt advice where it is most needed”.
The council will reform its temporary accommodation policy for people at risk of homelessness. Currently it is “reliant on nightly purchased accommodation” because of a lack of “suitable” alternatives. But this is “very expensive”, and the council will instead act as a rent guarantor with private landlords to develop “suitable and affordable” tenancies.
Extra money can also be raised by the council putting up its charges by 8% for statutory services such as applications for HMOs (houses in multiple occupation).
Education and schools
Funding for the Bridge Achievement Centre, Newport’s pupil referral unit, will be reduced, in cuts affecting areas such as pupil and staff transport and supply costs. No staff reductions have been proposed.
Newport City Council will “maximise” Welsh Government funding for the universal free school meals rollout, and will cut its budget for school meals maintenance after underspending in recent years.
Libraries and community centres
Malpas Court Mansion House could become a new community learning centre, absorbing post-16 classes currently taught at St Julians Community Education Centre. The council said Malpas Court was not presently “financially sustainable” and pressures would continue to grow without a shake-up of services.
Demand for libraries has “reduced and changed significantly” in the past five years, prompting the council to propose closing two of the city’s libraries, in Pill and St Julians. These buildings could be sold off.
The current Malpas Library could be moved into Malpas Court under the plans, and Bettws Library will move into a nearby community centre.
The council headquarters at the Civic Centre could be shut for up to two days a week, with “many” staff able to work from home in “more flexible” models. Any change of this sort would require staff and union consultation.
The council will also turn the heating down in its buildings, in an attempt to reduce energy costs.
Any residents who need a new black wheelie bin could have to pay for a replacement, a new proposal suggests.
The council will also cut spending on waste incineration and on staff salary increases that are “no longer required”.
The council will cut its funding by 10% for Newport Live, which runs the city’s leisure and arts service.
Anyone caught falsely claiming a reduced rate of council tax could be hit with anti-fraud penalties, as part of a new proposal.
The council will also reduce its budget for council tax reductions, after underspending this year.
Two vacant library positions will be scrapped to make way for a new community outreach librarian. One further community librarian post will also be cut.
A vacant social worker position will go unfilled, as will a vacancy in the maintenance team for the council’s vehicle fleet and an unfilled job in the infrastructure department.
Similarly, a job in the events management service has been advertised for 12 months and will now be removed.
A full-time youth worker role in the council’s youth offending team will also be scrapped, and an existing planning enforcement officer position will be replaced with a “fixed term student planner”.
The council will cut funding for entry-level job opportunities and seek to replace that money with external grants – up to 20 apprenticeships have already been secured in this way.
Spotted something? Got a story? Email News@News.Wales