By Bruce Sinclair
Pembrokeshire County Council faces a less bleak financial position than had previously been expected, to the tune of nearly £10m, members of a schools committee heard.
At the February 6 meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance Alec Cormack, presented outline draft 2023-’24 budget proposals to members.
He told members an updated draft budget was to be reported to the February meeting of the council’s Cabinet after a previously feared funding gap of £28m was now smaller, at £18.6m, due to a higher settlement from Welsh Government.
An expected 3.5 per cent settlement ended up being 7.9 per cent, which meant some expected cuts were now unlikely to happen, he told committee members.
“A large number of the most severe cuts are now very, very unlikely; we’re now looking at a deficit of £18.6m, it’s not as severe as it was. The officer team is looking at how that funding gap could be closed with budget savings and with different levels of council tax.”
Members heard the budget is expected to be addressed through an increase in council tax – potentially in the area of 7.5 per cent – along with significant cost reductions.
Director of Resources John Haswell said: “It was a better settlement, but still an £18.6m gap; this isn’t a one-year issue, this is an issue over the medium-term plan, over £50m over the four-year period.”
He said that Pembrokeshire, having the lowest council tax rates in Wales, meant that each potential percentage increase returned less than other local authorities.
Members heard papers listing the latest budget proposals for Cabinet discussion are expected to be released soon, in advance of the February 13 meeting.
Members agreed to defer making any recommendations to Cabinet, pending the release of the revised papers.