Second phase of consultation for 2021/22 Rhondda Cynon Taf Budget now underway
The Council has today started a second phase of public consultation on its 2021/22 Budget – with residents, businesses and other stakeholders now invited to have their say on the specific proposals as outlined in a Draft Budget Strategy.
At the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, January 28, Members agreed a draft budget strategy and timeline to finalise the 2021/22 Budget in March 2021 – and an important aspect of this is to undertake a further consultation exercise with residents. The first phase of consultation took place from October to December 2020, and collected views on investment priorities, Council Tax and efficiency savings, and the Cabinet have considered this much-valued feedback in agreeing to a draft budget strategy.
The Provisional Settlement announced on December 22 acknowledges the critical role that local authorities have played in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and confirms that Rhondda Cynon Taf will receive a 3.8% increase in funding from Welsh Government for next year.
Taking this into account, as well as the feedback received in the first phase of consultation, a Draft Budget Strategy was shared with Cabinet Members. It aims to be as fair as possible, limit any impact on our valued services and target resources to key areas. It includes a proposed 2.65% Council Tax rise – likely to be the lowest rise in Wales next year and below the 2.85% originally proposed and consulted upon, an additional £2.2m for the Schools Budget, £4.6m in efficiency savings, no service cuts, and additional targeted resources across several service priority areas. A summary is included at the bottom of this page.
Following Cabinet’s approval, the second phase of consultation with residents has now started – and will run up until Friday, February 12. Residents can take part here: www.rctcbc.gov.uk/currentconsultations.
The process will primarily be online due to COVID-19 restrictions – and will include an online survey, Zoom public engagement event and an opportunity to ask questions to Senior Officers and Cabinet Members on social media. Online sessions will take place with targeted groups – including the Older Persons Advisory Group, Rhondda Cynon Taf’s Youth Forums, schools, the Finance & Performance Scrutiny Committee and the School Budget Forum.
Residents can also take part offline, including via letter (Freepost) and telephone. Residents can call 01443 425014 to provide their views over the phone, or to arrange to receive a paper version of the information and survey.
Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member for Council Business, said: “On Thursday, Cabinet considered the Draft Budget Strategy for 2021/22, and agreed to progress to a second phase of public consultation on these specific proposals.
“Thanks to prudent financial management by the Council, the strategy targets investment in a number of priority areas, delivers £4.6m in efficiency savings, proposes no service cuts and puts forward what is once again expected to be the lowest Council Tax rise in Wales – all against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The views received during public engagement exercises are vitally important, as shown in the first Budget consultation when the 1,044 completed surveys were used as a key consideration for Officers to produce the draft Budget Strategy. For example, 76% of respondents said they would protect services with a Council Tax increase – and the proposals achieve this with a lower increase than that originally consulted upon. Schools and Public Health are also proposed to receive targeted funding, with these among the top services that people told us we should be prioritising.
“The COVID-19 restrictions do present challenges for public consultations – however, the Council will continue to try to reach as many residents as possible, as has been the case in engagement exercises throughout the pandemic. It will be an online-led consultation with important provision for those who can’t access the Internet, as all documents are available as hard copies upon request, and people can also have their say via phone or letter.
“I’d urge as many people as possible to take part in the consultation to help inform the decision-making process for setting a final Budget, which will be considered by Cabinet Members in February and Full Council in March.”
The Draft Budget Strategy, agreed by Cabinet on January 28, includes:
- A Schools Budget increase of £2.2m, recognising schools as a key priority and fully-funding their requirements for next year.
- Protecting Council services meaning a no cuts Budget.
- Delivery of £4.6m in further efficiencies, on top of the £6m per year savings achieved across Council services in each of the last three years.
- A Council Tax increase of 2.65%, which is below what was initially consulted upon and is set to once again be the lowest rise in Wales for 2021/22.
- Continuation of the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) Local Relief Scheme, and increasing to £350 per qualifying business for 2021/22.
- Car parking to be made free, after 3pm on weekdays and after 10am on Saturdays (applying to Aberdare and Pontypridd).
- Climate Change and Carbon Reduction, a core budget of £100,000 would be put in place to increase the pace of work in this area.
- A freeze on charges, for Leisure for Life, car parks, sports fields, Lido Ponty/Rhondda Heritage Park, Bereavement Fees and school meals.
- Additional targeted resources:
- £200,000 to allow for the recruitment of six Graduate Officers over and above the commitment already made under the Council’s successful Graduate Scheme.
- £200,000 for Public Health and Protection to increase resilience in the service and allow additional resources to be employed.
- £50,000 in Flood Prevention Support for an advisory resource to support residents and businesses.
- £50,000 for Well-being support programmes to be developed and extended across the workforce.
- £75,000 for an additional Overgrowth Team to be put in place to further enhance the work to keep our local environment clean and tidy.
- £500,000 for a new Drainage Team to bolster and increase the pace of works to repair and improve drainage systems is also included in the proposed budget.