Swansea Council is to fully fund this year’s teacher’s pay rise and millions of pounds of necessary investment in social care in budget proposals unveiled today despite continued cuts to local government funding.
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 measures would mean that a local council tax increase of 2.99% increase intended as part of the budget proposals, there will be an additional rise of 1% for teachers pay and 2% for social care 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: “In an age of continuing national government cuts, the work we do in Swansea supporting the young, the old and the vulnerable provides a vital backstop for our communities and, for our children, an investment in their futures.
“We’ve listened to the views of the people of Swansea and the proposals going to Cabinet will mean the council will be spending an average £1.6m a day on services that will touch all our citizens and communities in the year ahead.”
Among key proposals in the budget report:
• 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
• £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: “The Westminster Government has argued that the age of austerity has come to an end. It hasn’t. Councils across the UK are worse off than they were in 2009 and over £1bn has been cut from local government funding in Wales. If government funding local services fairly then we would need to raise less from Council tax.
“This year our funding gap will be £24m, rising to around £70m in the next few years if there’s no end to austerity. The core council tax rise could have been as low as 2.99% this year, 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.
“In addition we have written to the UK Government urging them to fully fund teachers’ pension increases. We’re doing our bit by covering the pay rise, they need to do theirs to ease the burden on local council taxpayers.
The planned 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.
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.
Cllr Stewart said: “We’ve listened carefully to what people have said which is also why we won’t be introducing charges in our free car parks in local communities.
“We know the pressure high streets in our outlying communities are feeling due to the uncertainty of Brexit and other issues so we are minded not to press ahead. We will also be considering withdrawing plans to change library services for housebound residents which would mean the service will continue to be provided for free as it is at the moment.”
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: “In the last few years we’ve had to deal with the most prolonged series of budget reductions for local government funding in modern times. We’ve saved £60m so far.
“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.”
If Cabinet approves the report on February 14, it will go to Full Council on February 28 for a final decision.