COUNCIL tax in Monmouthshire is set to increase by 5.95 per cent from April while the county looks to make cuts and savings of £11.6 million.
Among the cuts included in the upcoming budget – the first produced by the Labour group since it came to power at last May’s local elections – are reduced opening hours at leisure centres and its six community hubs throughout the county, and the withdrawal of financial support for the Gwent Music service which helps children learn to play musical instruments.
The council says inflation, and other increases including rising energy bills, amount to £26 million required in extra spending or costs, while its funding from the Welsh Government for the 2023/24 financial year will increase by £10.2 million.
Though that is better than expected, it still leaves the council having to find cuts and boost revenue with the council tax increase set to bring in an additional £4.1 million.
A band D home currently charged £1,476.79 would see that likely rise by £87.87 a year, before police and town and community council precepts are added, which the council says works out as an extra £1.69 a week.
For homes in bands E to I the weekly increases work out at £2.07, £2.44, £2.82, £3.38 and £3.94.
Among cuts to be made, schools are facing a £1.45 million reduction, while social services will see £4.4 million worth of cuts, including £2 million from already under-pressure adult services, and £1.36 million from children’s services.
Increased charges and fees could net £1.4 million, with car parking charges to rise by 15 per cent and garden waste collection charges set to be hiked.
A two-hour stay in a council car park will rise by 30p, to £1.80, and the all-day charge will be £5.60 rather than £4.80. It is expected car parking ticket sales will generate an additional £199,000. Residential permits will increase from £60 to £69 creating an additional £15,255 annual income.
The charge to attend before school clubs will rise to £2 a morning, to bring in an extra £70,000, while the cost of a concessionary school bus pass, for pupils who don’t qualify for free transport, will jump from £440 a year to £550.
Charges are also set to be introduced at some heritage exhibitions and events.
Along with a reduction in staff at community hubs, which host libraries as well as providing computers for use and access to council services, it is planned to axe the equivalent of two and a half full-time jobs from the council’s contact centre which answers calls from the public.
It is also planned to “explore alternative reception” solutions at County Hall in Usk so it no longer needs to be staffed.
Community improvement teams, who work within the neighbourhood services, are also set to be axed with a reassessment of street sweeping operations while bus routes will also be overhauled.
Other areas where it is planned to reduce staff include adult services, while there will also be a review of children’s services and a restructure of the public protection service which includes the environmental health department and staff who deal with licensing and trading standards.
Leisure centre opening hours will be reduced at all four centres in the summer, which it is said will impact the least number of sports clubs, but make the service “sustainable” by saving £20,000 while halving the budget for library books is intended to save £45,000.
The cut to school budgets works out at a 2.8 per cent reduction after a full provision for pay and energy increases, while a hardship fund will be maintained to help children from low-income families access music despite the withdrawal of the support to the Gwent Music Service.
Investments planned for the coming year include £66,000 for a new Welsh medium seedling school in Monmouth, £270,000 for three new flats at Newport Road, Caldicot for people with learning disabilities to live independently, which will also reduce the need for out of county placements, and £84,000 for community safety.
Cash will be used to tackle anti-social behaviour and boost CCTV capabilities as well as measures to reduced domestic violence and violence against women and girls.
Capital projects over the coming year include £69.3 million for a new three-to-19 school at Abergavenny, which will be the first net zero carbon school of its type in Wales, and a new care home at Crick Road, near Caldicot.
Residents are being encouraged to give their views on the budget proposals in a public consultation that opens from Wednesday, January 18, and runs until midday on Thursday, February 16.
Face-to-face consultation events will taking place at the following locations starting at 6pm.
Monday, January 23: Caldicot Hub;
Tuesday, January 24: Chepstow Hub;
Wednesday, January 25: Usk Hub;
Thursday, January 26: Shire Hall, Monmouth;
Tuesday, January 31: Magor Church in Wales Primary School;
Tuesday, February 7: Abergavenny Hub .
Two online budget sessions will place on Thursday February 2, at 10am and 6pm and people can register to take part via the budget pages on the council’s website where there is also a feedback survey available.