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£7.7m savings crunch on top of 3.9% council tax rise

 
Created on 19/01/2022 @ 10:15

 

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Despite a bumper pay out from the Welsh Government and a whopping 3.9% council tax rise, Powys County Council says it will still need to make £7.7m in cuts to balance the books this year.

Th regional authority said that it needs to make £41million in cuts by the end of 2026/27, so is preparing early by asking us to dig deeper for a reduction in services provided.

At the council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the importance of being able to deliver the savings was stressed when Finance Portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, said: “The budget also proposes £7.7million in cost reductions. These will be essential to deliver a balanced budget.

“Assurance must be provided to the council that the budget is robust and the reductions included are deliverable.”

Head of Finance, Jane Thomas, added: “The level of cost reduction required in 2022-23 is again a significant challenge. When this is coupled with the ongoing need for improvement and the identification of further potential pressure in some services, a prudent approach must continue to be adopted to support financial stability.”

The report explains that removing “unachievable savings” rolled over from previous years from the budget “adds resilience and robustness” to it. The savings were approved by cabinet as part of the draft budget report.

A total of 62 proposals for savings, cuts and creating income are proposed from across the council departments for next year. Some will feature in future budgets up to 2026/27.

From the list of reductions, 22 proposals with the intention of saving over £5.5million for Social Services have now been agreed in draft.

This includes proposals that Children’s Services save £1.5million by bring child placements “closer to home”. If this is done another £10,000 would be saved in staff travelling expenses.

“Converting” five agency staff into council social workers would save £150,000.

Arts and Culture Services will see a £63,000 cut to their budget, but an impact assessment looking at the cut explains that less people are likely to work in this sector as a result and more young people are likely to leave Powys.

In the Highways Transport and Recycling (HTR) service, a review of council car parking fees will take place. The department hopes they can increase income from car parks by £50,000 in 2022/23 and another £50,000 in 2023/24.

The impact assessment says that by increasing car parking costs could “reduce” visitor numbers and “deter” Powys residents from going into towns. But it could help tackle climate change by encouraging people to walk or use other forms of transport.

HTR also believes they can make an extra £75,000 from recycling with the impact assessment explaining that material it collects is eventually sold to re-processed.

The assessment says: “The market for materials is relatively strong at present and hence there is confidence that this income can be maintained through best value contracts.”

During the coming weeks Powys’ scrutiny committees are expected to discuss all these proposals and make further comments.

The budget will be debated at a council meeting on February 24, before being set on March 3.

 

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