WANT to know how much Council Tax you will be paying this year? Wondering how school budgets will be affected? Or how much cash will be going towards fixing all those potholes?
With Cardiff Council’s cabinet due to consider the budget proposals for the coming year on Thursday, we’ve looked at the key points that residents need to know.
Mind the (budget) gap
The council’s budget this year is £578 million. An estimated funding gap of £25 million will make up a total of £213 million in savings over the 10 year period from 2008/09 to 2017/18.
The council will meet about £4.5 million of this shortfall by increasing council tax by 3.7 per cent. If you live in a Band A house, your council tax will go up to £878 per year (including £145 for police services), £1,317 (£218 police costs) if you live in a band D house – which is taken as the average for comparative purposes – and £3,074 (£509 police costs) if you live in a band I house.
The largest part of the £25 million funding hole will be filled with £17 million of savings, taken from various parts of the council’s activities. Among the biggest savings will be £4.9 million from social services, £2.3 million from education and £2.1 million from economic development.
The remaining money will be found through a 30 per cent cap on “non-pupil number” schools growth and use of financial reserves, at £1.8 million and £1.5 million respectively.
Extra cash from Welsh government
Cardiff Council will receive an extra £2.3 million in funding from the Welsh government compared to last year, with a total of £428 million. The council says this still amounts to a real terms cut once inflation is taken into account, but the unexpected cash means that they have pencilled in some “one-off” spending for this year.
This includes £540,000 to make over roads and footpaths, £300,000 a piece to fix Cardiff Central Market’s leaky roof and upgrade sports facilities and £250,000 for security measures to prevent terror attacks in the city centre.
New staff (mostly for social care)
This year will see an overall creation of more than 50 jobs in the council, after the loss of 44 positions is offset by 98 new posts. This net increase is the first after several years of reductions in council staff numbers, with the local authority saying that 1,600 full-time employees were lost due to budget savings in the last five years.
Most of these jobs are in social care, where rising demand is being driven by an ageing population.
Schools are getting £7.2 million, a three per cent rise on the previous year despite the fact that the Welsh government did not protect their budgets this time round. This reflects the views of 63 per cent of respondents to the council’s budget survey who said schools should be protected.
However, they will have to find money from their own budgets to go towards staff pay increases.
The price of primary and secondary school meals will also increase by 10p per day, creating savings of almost half a million pounds for the council.
Burial and cremation service charges will change
This year will see Cardiff City Council become the fourth local authority in Wales to remove charges for child burial and cremation services.
The charge up until now has been £75 to bury or cremate a child. The cost of taking on the service is estimated to be relatively small. According to a council spokesperson, the total fees for the past two years have amounted to roughly £3,000.
Labour councillor Bob Derbyshire, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Bereavement Services said: “If tragedy strikes and a child is taken from this world earlier than he or she should be, the last thing the family want to be thinking about is the cost of the cremation or burial service.”
However, charges are set to rise for burials and cremations of people aged 17 and over. The proposal is for the price of a cremation to from £530 to £540, while the cost of a burial will go from £600 to £630.
What the politicians say
In response to the announcements, Councillor Nigel Howells, Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance said: “At the last election, Labour promised the people of Cardiff they’d keep council tax rises below 2 per cent. This year they had one last chance to keep that promise, but instead they plan to break it for the fourth year in a row.“
Councillor Neil McEvoy, Leader of the Plaid Cymru group, said that his party would hold a “special budget meeting” after the election to “rectify” matters if they won.
Labour councillor Graham Hinchey, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Performance said: “Keeping the council tax increase at 3.7 per cent allows us to protect the services our residents want. This increase only brings in an extra £4.5 million but it means we can continue services we might otherwise have to cut.”
Leader of the City Council, Councillor Phil Bale said: “Our budget decisions run side by side with our priorities as laid out in our Corporate Plan. Great cities need great public services and that is what we are committed to delivering for Cardiff. The better than expected settlement from Welsh Government this year has enabled us to protect some of the services that matter most to our residents.
“Austerity hasn’t gone away and there are more cuts to come in the future, but I want our residents to know we are delivering on our priorities and on our vision to make Cardiff Europe’s most liveable capital city – a city which is a great place to live and a city of opportunity for everyone, regardless of background.”