Swansea Council announces budget for upcoming financial year.
Schools and social care are to get millions of pounds of extra necessary investment in the coming financial year after Swansea Council passed its budget on Thursday (Feb 28).
Councillors agreed to fully fund this year’s teacher’s pay rise and millions of pounds of necessary investment in social care despite continued cuts to local government funding.
The measures would mean that in addition to a local council tax increase of 2.99% intended as part of the budget proposals, there will also be a rise of 1% for teachers pay and 2% for social care services.
The move to provide extra support for vital services in the face of continuing cuts in government funding for local government in Wales comes as Swansea Council revealed £24m of savings will be needed in the coming 12 months.
The increase in council tax of 5.99% will see a rise of around £1.14 a week for Band B council taxpayers, generating £7m for vital services.
The measures in the budget will help improve the lives of families across every community in Swansea as they benefit from revenue spending of more than £440m in the coming financial year.
Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council said: “Every penny of extra council tax raised will go to fund education and social services. Despite continued government cuts we intend to spend around £1.6m a day on the vital services that people rely on everyday.”
Among the key budget proposals agreed by the council:
Additional cash investment in education of £3.7m to fully fund the teachers’ pay award.
A boost of £4.2m for investment in social care services for the vulnerable and elderly
£141m for investing in a new generation of school building and improvements
£2.4m extra for roads and pavements
£4m for new council homes across Swansea
£720,000 for local community improvements
£47m extra to upgrade council homes
Further roll-out of more local area co-ordination services alongside a review of long-term adult care packages resulting in net savings of £400,000
Cllr Stewart said: “In the last nine years, the Westminster Government’s age of austerity has cut more than £1bn from local government services in Wales. Governments have unfairly passed costs to local taxpayers. We’ve made it very clear that if government funding local services fairly then we would need to raise less from Council tax.
“In Swansea our funding gap for the next financial year will be £24m, and our funding has been cut to the level it was 11 years ago. The core council tax rise could have been as low as 2.99% this year if proper funding had been made available, but in the face of further funding cuts from government, our consultation showed the public was prepared to pay a little more for services rather than lose them.
“That’s why, despite the Welsh Government providing some additional money for schools and social services this year, we have decided to step in to ease the pressure on hard-pressed budgets by adding a further 1% to council tax to cover teachers’ pay rises.
“Similarly, we are also adding another 2% to cover the continuing rising demand for and cost of social care – services that support some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”
He added: “The council is playing its part to protect services as much as possible. The Welsh and UK Governments must play their part too. If they provide more funding we will reduce the council tax levy in future.”
During the consultation period the council received more than 800 responses and petitions about its proposals. The council also staged a consultation session with pupils from city schools to get their views on a range of issues.
Among savings proposals and income opportunities identified are:
Further management and back-office savings across the council of £750,000
Staff savings of £100,000 due to mobile working
New income from rental of office space in Civic Centre of £275,000
Integrated Transport savings of £250,000
Cllr Stewart said: “We’ve been able to protect frontline services as much as possible thanks to our determination to be leaner, more efficient and to ensure we make the most of technology and automation.
“Despite austerity we are injecting £1.6m a day into the local economy and continuing to deliver on the priorities of the people of Swansea.”