Posted: Thu 16th Nov 2023

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Announces £9m Savings to Tackle Budget Gap

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Nov 16th, 2023

The reduction in hours of leisure centres, recycling centres and Christmas closures of some swimming pools in Rhondda Cynon Taf are some of the measures that the council says will temporarily “turn the tap down” on spending.
The council has announced more than £9m of savings it has found as it aims to tackle a budget gap of around £35m next year which the authority it is currently forecasting.
Some of these involve operational service changes which the council says would save £1.525m and include the Christmas-time closure of Hawthorn and Ferndale swimming pools (£2,000), the closure of the face-to-face box offices at RCT theatres ( 16 hours per venue each week saving £30,000) and a demand-led reduction of leisure centre hours (by no more than eight hours per week at each centre saving £25,000).
There will be some changes to library and One4All centres including a review of opening hours with a minimum of 40 hours per week for the three area libraries and “harmonisation” of lunchtime opening across all branch libraries that will increase the total opening hours across these branch libraries and save £236,000, the council said.
Meanwhile the parks and street cleansing service will be reorganised to “maximise efficiency” with a saving of £750,000 according to RCT Council.
Community Recycling Centre opening hours would be reduced (£100,000), a potential community asset transfer of Llantwit Fardre Sports Centre will be looked at (£80,000) and there are set to be changes to maintenance arrangements for street lighting (£50,000).
Also part of the £1.525m savings are plans to make illuminated signs and bollards unlit (£27,000).
The other measures which will take the savings to £8.245m include £2.153m in cost reduction and additional income, £2m in non pay budget freeze and efficiency, £930,000 in recharge of costs and the use of external funding and £1.637m in service restructuring and vacancy management.
The council has also factored in the changes it has already made to services like waste collections, day nursery services and the meals on wheels service and it has also included additional income forecast as a result of the premium on second homes which adds up to £841,000 and takes the total savings to £9.086m.
The council’s chief executive Paul Mee said: “A series of operational changes will also be considered as part of the ongoing effort to identify efficiency savings that won’t dramatically impact our services.
“Efficiency measures have been a key part of our budget-setting process in recent years. However, this type of saving is increasingly hard to find, and officers have had to look at other operational measures such as reduced opening hours for some services, where usage data suggests it will have the smallest impact.
 “This approach very much seeks to temporarily ‘turn-the-tap-down’, so when circumstance allows, through increased public sector funding in the medium to longer term, we are able to reconsider these service level changes.”
Council leader Andrew Morgan said: “No councillor comes into local government with the intention to reduce the level of service provision provided – but unfortunately the harsh realities of the situation we face means that we have no option other than to reconsider what services we prioritise, or how we can do things differently.
“All elected members have a responsibility to ensure the council sets a balanced budget, and our proactive approach when previously faced with similar financial challenges is providing important financial resilience as we enter one of the most challenging funding periods, based upon current UK-wide public sector funding projections.
“Having balanced our largest-ever budget gap for the current financial year while avoiding major cuts in the process – and facing a further estimated budget gap of £85.4m over the next three years – the cabinet will need to consider a number of officer reports which seek to address the significant shortfall in funding which the council will face next year.
 “The council has a duty to set a legally-balanced budget, but every year this becomes more difficult. It is wholly unfair that services we value have to be reduced as a result of the UK Government reluctance to prioritise public services.”
These changes are due to go before the council’s cabinet on Monday, November 20. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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