Latest News from Bridgend County Borough Council – 19 January

Aldi is confirmed as the preferred bidder for new Porthcawl foodstore

Following a robust selection process, Aldi Stores Ltd has been confirmed as the preferred bidder for an all-new foodstore in Porthcawl.

A total of five bids were received for the new store, which is set to be developed at a two-acre site located within the Salt Lake area and known locally as The Green.

Bidders were required to submit high-quality, bespoke designs for premises that can act as ‘gateway buildings’ while incorporating appropriate access and active travel arrangements.

As well as providing residents with greater choice and more flexibility, the development is intended to unlock funds that will be reinvested into local infrastructure improvements within Porthcawl and further stages of the regeneration plans.

Cllr Charles Smith, Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration, said: “This is excellent news and another major step forward in the regeneration plans for Porthcawl.

“This development is going to create new jobs, provide new facilities, and deliver new landscaping and public realm improvements.

“I have previously likened the various regeneration phases to being very much like a vast jigsaw puzzle, with each new piece settling in alongside what has gone before, ready to complement what is yet to come.

“In this case, the foodstore will act as a catalyst by unlocking funds that will be reinvested into establishing necessary new infrastructure within the seafront area, improved car parking facilities at Hillsboro car park and much more.

“It will be followed by all-new residential, leisure, retail and commercial developments at Salt Lake, along with green open space and new active travel facilities, and I am looking forward to when this process has been finalised, and the plans and illustrations showing how the new store will look can be revealed in full.”

The Leader, Cllr Huw David added: “I think people are going to be really pleased when they see what Aldi has planned for Porthcawl.

“Our development brief called for an innovative, sustainable building design using high-quality materials to take account of Porthcawl’s heritage and setting while looking towards future regeneration aspirations.

“We want it to establish a distinct, enhanced gateway into Porthcawl with lots of high-quality landscaping, new public realm improvements and extra car parking capable of supporting trips into the town centre.

“We further want it to deliver improved pedestrian and cycle links, and to help increase footfall between the town centre and the Eastern Promenade, which is also set to be regenerated.

“I think the preferred bid achieves all that we wanted, and more besides.

“The designs will be revealed along with full details once the contract has been finalised, so look out for more information soon.”


Amended bus timetable in place from Sunday 24 January

First Cymru Buses Ltd will be running an amended timetable across the county borough from Sunday, 24 January 2021.

The amended timetables will maintain services for essential journeys and key workers and will be at similar levels to those run in August 2020.

Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities said: “Residents are reminded that under the current alert level four lockdown restrictions, you must stay at home and only travel for essential purposes.

“This includes travelling to and from work if you’re unable to work from home, for caregiving purposes or for essential medical or food needs.

“Thanks to First Cymru Buses Ltd and other operators for their continued commitment to keep vital bus services operating throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.”

For full details of service frequency and timetables visit the First Cymru Bridgend, Maesteg and Porthcawl Services webpage.


Update on local mobile testing arrangements

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has confirmed the latest arrangements for mobile coronavirus testing facilities in Bridgend County Borough.

A drive-through facility at Ynysawdre Swimming Pool (Heol-Yr-Ysgol, Tondu CF32 9ET) will close at the end of Thursday, 21 January. Until then, it is open 9am-4pm throughout the week, and booking is essential.

A new drive-through testing centre will open at the site of the former Revlon / Cosi factory off Oakwood Drive in Maesteg (CF34 8TS) on Friday, 22 January. It is open from 9am to 4pm and booking is essential.

A walk-through testing facility is also in place at the Bowls Hall car park off Bridgend Life Centre (Angel Street, Bridgend CF31 4AH). The facility is available 8am-8pm, seven days a week, and booking is also essential.

To arrange an appointment for any of these testing facilities, visit the Welsh Government website or call 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can book an appointment by calling 18001119.

A walk-in site at the Awel y Mor community centre, Hutchwns Terrace in Porthcawl will now close a day earlier than planned, at the end of Wednesday, January 20. Until then it is open between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Booking is not required.

The Leader, Cllr Huw David said: “People should get a test as soon as possible if they have any of the symptoms of coronavirus – a new continuous cough, a high temperature and a loss of / change to your normal sense of smell or taste.

“It is vital people self-isolate if they have any symptoms – this means that once you have had a test, people must go home immediately – do not use the opportunity to go shopping or make any other trips.

“We are still seeing high levels of coronavirus across the county borough, and with alert level four conditions in place across Wales, we must do all that we can to help limit the spread of the virus.

“Demand for mobile testing facilities is high, so please only use them if you are exhibiting any symptoms of Covid-19, and keep on observing the basic rules which are designed to keep us all safe.

“This involves keeping a two-metre distance from others, washing your hands regularly, and wearing a face covering where required.”


Cabinet discusses Medium Term Financial Strategy

Bridgend County Borough Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy will soon be undergoing further scrutiny by cross party councillors ahead of it being presented to full council next month.

The strategy includes the 2021-22 annual budget and also covers a financial forecast up to 2025 with spending priorities of the council outlined as well as key investment objectives and budget areas targeted for necessary savings.

While the council’s net revenue budget is planned at £298.956 million for 2021-22, its overall expenditure far exceeds this.

Taking into account expenditure and services which are funded by specific grants or fees and charges, the council’s gross budget will be around £420 million in 2021-22.

Local authorities get the majority of their revenue funding from Welsh Government through the Revenue Support Grant and a share of Non Domestic Rates. It supplements this through council tax collection, other grants and fees and charges.

Over the coming year, Bridgend County Borough Council is proposing to spend £127 million on services delivered by the Education and Family Support Directorate. The majority of this money will be spent by the county borough’s 59 schools and one pupil referral unit.

In addition to the £103 million proposed budget to be delegated to schools in 2021-22, which mostly pays for the salaries of teaching and other school staff, and the running costs of the facilities, the council has already spent £21.6 million in building and refurbishing schools as part of its 21st Century School Modernisation Band A Programme and has provisionally committed to a further £19 million as part of the Band B Programme.

For 2021-22 the level of budget reductions required is not as great as had been feared. As a result, it has been possible to protect schools from a proposed 1 per cent annual efficiency target for one year.

After Education, the largest area of council spend is on social care. This includes social care for children and for adults with care and support needs.

In total, the council is proposing to spend £74 million on social care and wellbeing services over the coming year.

The council’s strategy over the next few years is to more effectively support independence and continue to remodel the way it works to help decrease dependency and enable people to maximise their independence.

On the public realm which includes work to maintain highways, parks and open spaces, clean streets, and collect and dispose of waste, the council has earmarked an overall net budget of around £21.8 million.

Council tax currently funds almost 30 per cent of the budget with more than £80 million being collected from around 65,000 households in the county borough.

Based on the proposed net budget of almost £300 million, the council tax increase for 2021-22 will be 3.9 per cent.

The Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams said: “The council tax increase is lower than the 4.5 per cent proposed in the budget consultation and reflects the views of the majority of respondents who were in favour of only increasing council tax slightly or up to 4.5 per cent in order to protect the most important services.

“It also takes into account the better than anticipated settlement from Welsh Government but is mindful of the ongoing pressures still facing the council.

“Over the last 10 years, the local authority has had to make £68 million of budget reductions due to national austerity measures and reduced resources. This represents almost 25 per cent of the council’s current budget.

“Throughout the year the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of additional cost pressures and loss of income. While Welsh Government has played a significant role in mitigating the majority of these losses through their various funding streams, most notably the Covid-19 Hardship Fund, the council now needs to consider the longer term impact of the pandemic and how it will shape the council as part of its recovery programme

“Other pressures include legislative changes, demographic changes and an increase in the number of pupils at our schools. More recently, there’s also been a reduction in the amount of council tax being collected, due to the difficult economic circumstances that people find themselves in. This is coupled with an increase in council tax support as more people find themselves on low incomes or claiming benefits.

“While our provisional settlement from Welsh Government contains an increase of 4.3 per cent and is a significant improvement on our ‘most likely’ funding assumption, it does not recognise a number of new pressures that the council will have to meet, and the uncertainties still surrounding Covid-19 and Brexit, so should be viewed with a degree of caution.

“Going forward the scale of the financial challenge remains considerable. We will continue to seek alternative ways of delivering services if that can ensure greater sustainability and efficiency.

“For example, over recent months there has been a significant acceleration in the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Programme and it is anticipated that a saving of £300,000 can be made next year by transferring responsibility for the management of assets, predominantly outdoor sports related playing fields and pavilions, to town and community councils or community clubs and groups.

“In addition the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how some council services can be delivered differently, and it is important that where appropriate that is something that endures and that investment is made to ensure that services can be maintained and delivered safely.

“We very much appreciate the role of the cross party Budget Research and Evaluation Panel which has already helped us with our deliberations – this draft strategy will now pass through the overview and scrutiny committees, we welcome the feedback from the scrutiny process.”

Cabinet members discussed the Medium Term Financial Strategy at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, January 19.


Fit for the Future consultation results

Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet has heard that overall, residents who responded to the Fit for the Future consultation thought the local authority has performed well during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results of the consultation, which asked residents to share their views about how they think the council should shape its services, were presented at the Cabinet’s meeting on Tuesday 19 January.

Carried out over an eight-week period, the consultation covered a range of issues, including the council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, business and the economy, health and wellbeing, customer access to civic offices, digitalisation and council tax levels.

The Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams, said: “It’s great to hear that most residents who responded to the survey think we have dealt with the pandemic well.

“Our services have faced huge challenges since the first lockdown was announced last March and council staff have worked hard to ensure frontline services, especially for the most vulnerable members of our communities, could continue to be provided in a safe way.

“It is also encouraging to hear that residents have been able to access the services they need through the council’s website and via phone and email while the Civic Offices have been closed.

“The results of this consultation will now help us to shape services going forward through the rest of the pandemic and beyond.”