My cabinet announced Budget Proposals that will go before Full Council at the end of the month. The settlement we received from the Welsh Government was better than expected but it still leaves a shortfall of £32 million which has meant making some difficult decisions and continuing to change how we deliver services.
Despite the impacts of prolonged austerity cuts, we have tried to use the better than expected settlement to protect services and invest in our priorities. Following public consultation the following changes have been made to the 2016/17 budget:
- Reducing the proposed Council Tax increase from 4.5% to 3.7% (a rise of 73p a week to a Band D property)
- Protection for the arts – cuts to grants for Artes Mundi, Cardiff Singer of the World, and community arts grants have been removed from the budget
- Adding £1.9m to Disabled Adaptations Grants to increase mobility and accessibility
- Giving schools growth an extra £1.6m, fully funding the impact of the removal of contracting out rules on Employer’s NI for schools
- Establishing a £500,000 fund for NEETS/looked after Children/Apprenticeships
- Targeted interventions for fixing potholes – an extra £320,000
- Additional funding for street cleaning services – an extra £320,000
We knew that difficult times lay ahead and that was the main reason we have highlighted four key priorities in our Corporate Plan. At a time of limited resources we need to prioritise:
- Better Education and Skills for all
- Supporting vulnerable people
- Creating more jobs and better paid jobs
- Working together to transform services
Our budget decisions run side by side with our priorities as laid out in our Corporate Plan. We are protecting school funding, spending more and delegating a greater proportion of the budget to schools than other Welsh local authorities. We have committed to spending £168m to modernise our schools and our focus on improving performance has helped GCSE results improve by 10% since 2012.
We have backed our commitment to support vulnerable people with spend on Social Services rising to £142m in 2016/17, an increase to £4m on the previous year, despite the pressures faced by the Council and the need to identify savings in the cost of services.
We’re creating more and better paid jobs in the city through the regeneration of Central Square and the new bus interchange alongside the LDP and a proposed £1.2bn Regional City Deal. Added to this we are making efficiencies and transforming our services.
However, Cardiff is facing unprecedented financial pressures alongside increasing demand for Council services. Delivering our priorities over the duration of the Corporate Plan will mean a continued focus on new ways of generating income and making savings. We have, for example, reduced the cost of the senior management team by £650,000 in a year and we’ve pursued a hub agenda, bringing services together under one roof. An example of this is the new Central Library Hub where bringing council services into one building has realised £349,000 savings for the council.
Great cities need great public services and that is what we are committed to delivering for Cardiff. The 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 you all to know that 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, one of opportunity for everyone, regardless of background.
Western Powerhouse meeting
I recently visited Bristol for the launch of the Western Powerhouse report. As part of the Great Western Cities programme Cardiff, Bristol and Newport have been exploring the potential benefits of working together in terms of attracting inward investment. This report outlined the huge benefits of this joined-up approach.
This report makes clear that the Great Western Cities represent a big opportunity for the British economy. Though our economic performance is strong, it could be stronger. Though we perform well compared to other UK powerhouse areas, we are lagging behind the top European performers. This report marks an important moment in making sure that this happens. We will now build on the great work currently underway in our respective city-regions to make sure that the Great Western Cities are better connected to each other, to other Powerhouse areas and to the world.
Here in Cardiff we have some heavy-hitting clusters of industry, including financial services and creative industries. However, abroad the brands of Cardiff and Bristol are sometimes less well-known than Doctor Who, or some of the high-profile products that come from our region.
We have to work together to leverage support out of UK government to market and brand our collective scale on a truly global basis. That was certainly the key message that I was keen to across when speaking to media representatives who attended the launch.