The rising cost of inflation, food and energy prices along with increased global demands for goods and services, means that the Carmarthenshire County Council is facing a significant shortfall in its 2023/24 budget.
The Council’s energy costs have trebled and the level of nationally agreed pay awards for staff is far above what was budgeted for 12 months ago, due to the significant rise of inflation.
Following the Welsh Government funding settlement, announced on December 14, Carmarthenshire County Council now knows that it will need to bridge a budget shortfall of over £20million in its 2023/24 budget.
Welsh Government recognise this has been one of the toughest budgets that they have ever set and therefore the money allocated to local authorities, which makes up around three-quarters of our funding, will fall well short of what the Council need to continue with services as they are currently. Council Tax raises around £92million a year and contributes to around a quarter of the total annual budget.
The Council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover its expenditure.
Very difficult decisions lie ahead of Carmarthenshire County Council, and we are now inviting residents, businesses, community and voluntary organisations to have their say on a wide range of financial saving proposals, that are drawn from across all services of the Council.
The online survey, which has gone live today (21 December 2022), has a total of 17 budget proposals and gives residents an opportunity to express their views on council tax increase and commercial charges such as school meals, leisure services, car parking and public protection. These will be considered alongside around 100 detailed managerial proposals, such as procurement arrangements, staffing structures and internal and back-office functions.
This situation is not unique to Carmarthenshire, as all local authorities across Wales are facing big shortfalls in their budgets due to the global economic climate.
Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “Despite the 8.5% increase settlement by the Welsh Government, this will be the worst financial budget for Carmarthenshire County Council, and other local authorities in Wales, in its history.
“These financial pressures are unprecedented, and we are being forced into a course of action due to circumstances that are out of our hands.
“Energy costs have trebled, due in part to the war in Ukraine, which means that it will cost us, the Council, an extra £10million to run our buildings – which include schools, residential homes and leisure centres.
“There’s also inflation and its impact on wages. Last year, we budgeted 4% for pay increases but no one could have predicted a 10% inflation level and the subsequently much higher pay demands. We have agreed with the unions, as have all local authorities, to a pay rise offer of £1,925 for all our workers. This equates to a 10% pay rise for the lowest paid staff, and an average of 7% across the council workforce, which is thoroughly deserved.
“We have been through our finances with a fine-tooth comb, and we are determined to save our frontline services. But we will have to make very difficult decisions and look to make savings across all the services that we, as a Council, provide.
“As local councils, we have suffered more than a decade of cuts to our funding, year after year. In real terms, in Carmarthenshire, we are over £100million worse off than we were a decade ago.
“It is important that the public engages with us on the set of proposals that we have published today. These may be unpopular proposals; however, we believe that they are the least damaging measures of saving money, increasing income, and cutting services. I would encourage everyone to complete the online survey.”
The budget consultation has now opened allowing people to have a say on the draft budget proposals.
Councillors will consider the views expressed in this consultation alongside managerial proposals to the value of around £13million when the budget is finally approved by Full Council in March 2023.
People can share their views online www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/consultations or by visiting a council customer service Hwb in Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford town centres
The budget consultation closes at 5pm 29 January 2023.
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