Cabinet recommend budget for 2020-21

Posted on Wednesday 12th February 2020

Following an extensive consultation with the public and partners, Cabinet today discussed feedback on the draft savings proposals put forward in December and made recommendations for the 2020/21 budget.

This year’s consultation saw the highest number of responses received – noted by the Leader and Cabinet as a reflection of the strong feelings following years of austerity and the real impact it has had on council services, but also the public’s desire to have their say and influence the decisions made at local government level.

Since the draft budget was prepared at the end of 2019, the council’s final settlement figure confirmed an improved grant from Welsh Government. Councillor Jane Mudd, Leader of the Council, said: We were very pleased to receive a positive draft settlement from Welsh Government, which put us in a better position than we originally thought. It has provided us with a little more flexibility when listening to what our residents feel most strongly about.”

As a result, Cabinet considered a positive balance and how this could be best invested or used to offset proposed savings.

Councillor Jane Mudd, added: “We have fully considered the responses from the public, partners and stakeholders and tried our very best to strike a balance between addressing the areas and issues highlighted, investing in the strategic areas identified by the council and protecting the financial integrity of the authority for the future.

“As a direct result of the feedback received we have decided to retain the funding for family support delivered through our Barnardo’s partnership; post 16 travel to school or college; and support for some voluntary sector organisations.”

Cabinet Members presented options at the meeting with the following proposals supported:

More than £10million investment in schools

Cabinet considered the schools’ funding position during their December meeting with original proposals including an investment of almost £4.4million into the schools budget. The announcement of the draft budget from WG confirmed further funding of £4.6million. Cabinet also announced today that an additional £1.4million will also be invested in recognition of the challenges of growing pupil numbers and the impact of previous underinvestment. 

£90,000 will be used to specialist support and help schools with their financial and HR management during this challenging period.

Council tax

The original proposal was to raise council tax by 7.95 per cent. Although this source of income represents less than a quarter of the authority’s budget, Cabinet recognises it is a considerable outgoing for residents. The proposed increase was reduced to 6.95 percent – with the majority of Newport households being in bands A to C, this means a rise of between £1 and £1.33 a week. Even with this increase, we expect to remain one of the lowest council tax rates in Wales.   

Extra £100,000 for youth services

The council will work with Newport Youth Council to decide how this extra money should be spent to benefit young people in the city.

£80,000 to bring empty properties back into use

Those who carry out work to bring empty properties back into use will be offered a one-year 50 per cent reduction on Council Tax. This could support the renovation of up to 125 properties across the city.

£210,000 to make the city centre more attractive

Additional money will be used to make the city centre more attractive, safer and cleaner, with the aim of increasing its appeal as a 24/7 city centre. This will expand on the ongoing regeneration, positive impact of civil parking enforcement and fund additional cleansing.

Investment of more than £292,000 into fostering

This money will be used to boost the fees paid to foster carers to make the council more competitive compared with private sector agencies. We want to place local children with local carers and reduce the number of more expensive out-of-council arrangements. This proposal will benefit both children and carers.

Discretionary rate relief for charities and groups

An additional £60,000 will be available to charities, voluntary bodies and community groups.

Barnardo’s – support for families

The council has a long-standing partnership with Barnardo’s to deliver family support services for children and families at the edge of care. A £75,000 reduction in this service was proposed, but based on the consultation feedback, this proposal will not be taken forward.

Voluntary sector grants

Proposals included reductions in grants to a number of third sector organisations. As a result of the consultation feedback, reductions relating to Mind and Newport People First will not be implemented.

Home to college transport

Original proposals included stopping home to college transport provision and the removal of post-16 travel grants to mainstream schools and colleges. As a result of consultation feedback, these proposals will not be taken forward.

Supporting future regeneration

Around £475,000 has been earmarked to facilitate council borrowing that could be used to support future private sector investment and regeneration projects in the city.

Creating a modern council

The council, to-date, has made limited investment in IT. Identified as a pressure for future years, Cabinet decided to invest in improved IT and staff training now. This will help the council modernise its working practices, therefore making the authority more efficient and agile, in turn providing a better service for residents.

The proposed budget will now go before full Council on Thursday 27 February.

Papers from the Cabinet meeting are available online. Minutes will be published in due course.

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