SWIMMING pools in Monmouthshire won’t now close an hour early due to revised budget plans that reverse more than £1 million of proposed savings and cuts.
Revisions also mean £2 million will be used to spend £500,000 annually on repairing potholes over the next four years.
A U-turn on closing leisure centres, including pools, from 9pm this summer has been announced, along with other amendments that will be recommended to councillors next week.
Monmouthshire cabinet member Sara Burch previously said late-night swimming was “a luxury the council could no longer afford”, but the authority has now said it is now proposed to absorb the £20,000 cost, though leisure bosses will keep services under review and ensure they are “responding to customer demand”.
A planned doubling of a £1 charge to attend school breakfast clubs is also set to be amended so that it only applies to the first child only to ease the burden on families with more than one child.
The changes are set to be agreed by Monmouthshire County Council’s Labour cabinet when it meets on Wednesday, March 1, following a month-long consultation on the budget proposals it put forward in January.
Those outlined £11.4 million worth of cuts and savings which will now be reduced to £10 million, primarily due to a proposal to put off finding £1 million worth of savings in adult social care until the 2024/25 budget.
Instead, the council will take £1 million from its reserves to continue to fund adult social care, which a report by the council’s finance chiefs has said is an acknowledgment of the “risks in attempting to make those changes too quickly” due to the county’s aging population and continued impact on people’s health and wellbeing following the Covid pandemic.
The report says the council’s intention is that “care is provided only where it is needed and at the right time” and that early help, prevention and reablement services and statutory services the council must provide are used alongside “existing family and community strengths”.
Social service chiefs will consider what changes can be made to adult social care, including any additional funding, and working with others to deliver care throughout the year but the report says the council’s position is that “affordability and value for money being as important as quality of outcomes for people.”
A £110 increase in the cost of a concessionary school bus pass for pupils who don’t qualify for free transport is set for the axe at a cost of £18,000, while a proposed £30 annual subscription for Grass Roots community transport scheme should be dropped. That is due to the feared impact on bus services in Monmouthshire when the Welsh Government withdraws emergency Covid funding this summer.
Opening hours for the council’s community hubs will also remain as they are but, as previously suggested, staffing will be reduced, while it has also been confirmed a plan to raise £6,000 from charging restaurants for having tables on the streets will not go ahead.
It is also planned to spend £50,000 from the capital budget to assess bridges on the rights of way network to ensure potential risks are highlighted.
Cllr Rachel Garrick, the cabinet member for finance, said: “We have done our very best to come up with a set of proposals that are balanced and considerate of the impact on all of our residents.”
The report also says the recommendation of a 5.9 per cent increase in the council tax should remain and a separate report to the cabinet, which will meet at County Hall in Usk, states that the council will have to use £6.06 million from reserves to balance its budget at the end of the current financial year. That is £1.06 million more than anticipated in September.
The authority held £10.53 million in reserve at the start of the 2022/23 financial year.
The upcoming 2023/24 budget will take £3.61 million from reserves to support day-to-day spending and capital spending.
The full council will be asked to approve the council tax increase and revised budget when it meets at County Hall at 10am on Thursday, March 2 the morning after the cabinet meeting.