Under plans being seen by Cabinet on January 12, schools and care services will get as much protection as possible from the pressures of inflation, continually-rising energy costs and demand for council services.
Swansea has secured an increase on its budget for 2024/25 from the Welsh Government of around £15.3m or 3.7% which will help the council support residents through the tough times ahead.
However, Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council warned that 22 local councils in Wales were getting only an extra £165m between them this year to spend on services.
He said: “Swansea spends more than this on education alone every year, so this is a very challenging settlement and will mean councils will have little new money to meet the significant rising pay, energy and service costs.”
Cllr Stewart said that a number of councils were considering having to close libraries, restrict opening times or introduce changes like three-weekly waste bin collections. Despite the pressures, Swansea Council is not intending to do any of those things.
He added: “Thanks to prudent financial management, Swansea is better placed than most to protect services that residents value most by using some of the reserves we have created over recent years.
He said: “It was right that we set aside reserves for a rainy day, and this year it really is monsoon season. The settlement for local government in Wales is very small and will mean all councils will struggle to sustain services.
“We will not hesitate to prudently use some of our reserves to support schools, care services and other key services that people value and depend upon every day.”
The report to Cabinet highlights how the council is forecasting being able to spend an extra £11.9m next year on education, meaning there will be more than £226m to spend on supporting young learners. There will also be further funding for Council centrally provided education services.
Cllr Stewart said: “We’ve been investing record amounts in front-line services and the recovery since the pandemic. In the last year we’ve seen the huge success of Swansea Arena and other city centre projects like 71/72 Kingsway and the new Community Hub making great strides as well as investment worth tens of millions of pounds to improve thousands of family homes for our tenants.
“However, the cost of living crisis, continually-rising inflation and energy costs are putting huge pressure on schools, care homes and community services as well as on local families. We have already been responding to that by looking at ways we can reduce our own costs this year and in next year’s budget.”
But he added: “Despite prudent management of our resources, inflation and energy costs means we still needs to make savings of £25m in the coming year to help offset the extremely difficult national financial challenges, none of which have been of our making.”
The report to Cabinet states that, as around 40% of the council’s overall costs relate to employees it’s anticipated that a relatively small number of posts will be at risk this year, some of which are already vacant. As the budget process develops and discussions take place with trade unions, it’s expected the figure will go down through initiatives like natural wastage and voluntary redundancy.
The Council’s Cabinet is due to see the draft budget report at its meeting on January 12. Public consultation will follow and feedback will be taken into account by Cabinet on in February, ahead of a finalised budget being offered to Full Council in early March.
No decision has yet been taken on the level of council tax for next year and this will form part of the consultation. However, the amount Swansea collects in council tax is only broadly the equivalent of its spending on social services and a 1% increase only raises £1.1m net.
Cllr Stewart said the Fire Service Levy is due to go up by 8.2% next year, but it’s not anticipated council tax in Swansea will go up anything like as much.
Cllr Stewart said: “Next year we will be investing an average £2.1m every day in services that make a real difference to people’s lives. We know how big an impact the cost of living crisis is having on families because our frontline staff are helping many people deal with the challenges. That’s why we are determined to keep any rise in council tax as low as possible.
“We are already doing more with less because the council has become smarter, leaner and more efficient. We have reduced back-office spending, automated services and cut red tape and that has helped slash the cost of what we do by millions of pounds. By radically changing the way we work we have achieved savings of more than £70m in the last five years.
“Despite the challenges we all face, we are determined to keep on delivering the vital frontline services that people in Swansea want.”
Please donate here: Support Carmarthenshire News Online Thank you for supporting independent journalism and contributing to the future of local news in Carmarthenshire. Carmarthenshire News Online has been dedicated to providing unbiased and trustworthy news, free from commercial or political influence. By donating as little as £1, you can help ensure the continuation of this important source of information for the community. Your contribution will have a significant impact on the sustainability of independent journalism. If you're looking to enhance your brand's visibility, we also offer advertising opportunities on our Livestream and podcasts. Our special offers provide excellent value for reaching our engaged audience. To learn more about these opportunities and to discuss your advertising needs, please feel free to call or text us at 07308598604. Thank you again for your support, and together we can ensure the availability of quality local news for Carmarthenshire and beyond.
Please donate here: Support Carmarthenshire News Online