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Council budget agreed for 2019-20

Bridgend County Borough Council has agreed a total net budget of £270.8m for the coming year.

The council’s gross revenue budget for 2019-20 will be around £420m, with an additional capital investment programme for the year of £36.1m.

In order to fund additional budget pressures and cover a funding shortfall of £7.6m, a council tax increase of 5.4 per cent has been agreed, which is the equivalent of an extra £1.45 a week for an average Band D property.

Thanks to a final settlement from Welsh Government which did not reduce the council’s funding as much as had been anticipated, schools will no longer be asked to find the one per cent annual efficiency saving that was proposed for 2019-20.

Instead, the council will to spend £111m – around 42 per cent of its net revenue budget – on education, and 59 local schools will now share an additional £4.5m.

Capital funding of £26.5m has been pledged towards the provision of new and refurbished school premises, which is in addition to the £21.5m that the authority has already invested in school modernisation.

A total of £73m or 27 per cent of the net revenue budget will be spent on social care, early help and homelessness.

Around £19.5m has been marked for public realm works covering services such as highways, parks and open spaces, street cleaning, waste and recycling, public transport, rights of way and road safety.

A £36.1m capital investment programme will invest £2.5m in disabled facilities grants, £2.4m for carriageway resurfacing and footpath repairs, £2.3m to prepare Maesteg’s west washery site for potential development, £2m for bridge strengthening and repairs in the Ogmore Valley, and £1.3m for the relocation of the Tythegston household recycling centre to an improved site at Pyle.

The capital investment programme also includes £1.1m for energy efficient street lighting technology, £1m to support the community asset transfers of sports pavilions, community centres and changing rooms, £530,000 for cemetery extensions at Porthcawl and Cornelly, and £500,000 for a children's residential accommodation hub.

A programme for the essential replacement of street lighting columns to ensure they remain safe will receive £400,000, and there will be £400,000 for road safety improvements, £357,000 for the Maesteg Town Hall Community hub project, £180,000 for Welsh Medium childcare provision, £100,000 for Assisted Recovery in the Community, and £11,000 for works to improve playing fields at Aberfields in Nantymoel.

To enable the council to cover the funding shortfall of £7.6m, the council will undertake internal management restructures, seek to reduce contributions to the Central South Consortium Joint Education Service, remove the councillor’s Community Action Fund, renegotiate contracts with partners such as HALO Leisure and Awen Cultural Trust, and restructure Youth Offending and the Shared Regulatory Service.

Reviews will take place for services that include school crossing patrols, complex care provision, homelessness prevention and parks and playing fields, and fees will be increased for the processing of planning applications.

The proposed closure of Bridgend bus station will no longer take place, and the council will seek to keep it open through options such as entering into a partnership with Bridgend Town Council, charging bus operators more for using the facility, exploring opportunities for setting up commercial opportunities and more.

Faced with an ageing population and an increasing dependency upon council services, the council also aims to make significant savings through the introduction of two new Extra Care residential care homes.

What was shaping up to be our toughest budget yet was eased slightly when we received a funding settlement that wasn’t as low as we had originally anticipated, and I am pleased that as a result we have been able to change our proposals for the year ahead. While we still have to cover a £7.6m shortfall, public consultation made a huge contribution to the budget-setting process.

We have always said that we want local people to work with us and help inform our final decisions, so it was very encouraging to see a 44 per cent increase in the number of returned surveys for the 2019-20 budget.

When you consider that all councils are faced with trying to provide essential services using increasingly limited resources, a high level of participation was essential for helping the authority to protect schools, leisure services, care for older people, services for disabled people and other areas which residents indicated they felt most strongly about.

Council Leader Huw David

Deputy Leader Hywel Williams added: “Like all councils in Wales, we are having to instigate a reluctant increase in council tax, but it is important to note that the extra amount that this will generate will not be enough to cover even the new national pay deal for teachers.

“We have been able to plan for a healthy programme of capital investment for the coming year, and have taken full account of UK economic and public expenditure strategies, Welsh Government priorities, legislative requirements, scrutiny feedback and ongoing national austerity measures.

“As austerity grinds on, local government funding continues to face a difficult and uncertain future. I want to reassure residents that Bridgend County Borough Council will continue to face this challenge and will find new and innovative ways of delivering essential services.”

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