Medium Term Financial Strategy discussed by Cabinet as national financial challenges continue

Bridgend County Borough Council’s Cabinet met this week to discuss the authority’s proposed Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) for 2024-25 to 2027-28.

The strategy will also be undergoing further scrutiny by cross party overview and scrutiny committees of councillors ahead of it being presented to full council on 28 February 2024.

Like all local authorities across Wales, and the UK, Bridgend County Borough Council is facing significant financial challenges as the funding to deliver services has not increased in line with the costs.

Some of the biggest budget pressures include:

  • The demand for adult social care support (referrals and interventions) has risen from 4,351 in 2022 to 5,137 in 2023, an increase of 18 per cent.
  • The number of homeless people supported in temporary accommodation has also risen significantly since 2019 when the spend was £135,000. It’s now anticipated to be £4.7m in 2023/2024.
  • The number of families requiring support from children’s social services has increased from 7,254 in 2022 to 11,355 in 2023 an increase of 56.53 per cent.
  • The cost of home to school transport has increased from £6.021m in 2020/2021 to a projected spend of £9.782m in 2023/2024.

Outlined in the document is a financial forecast for 2024-2028 and a detailed draft revenue budget for 2024-25, setting out the spending priorities of the council, key investment objectives and budget areas earmarked for necessary savings.

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.

Council tax currently funds around 27 per cent of the budget, meaning that for every £1 spent on services provided by the council, only around 27 pence is funded from council tax.

Based on the proposed net budget of almost £360 million, the strategy will include an initial proposal for council tax to increase to 9.5 per cent for 2024-25. 

The Corporate Plan has also helped to shape the strategy by focusing on key objectives such as the importance of working as ‘one council’ to provide services to local communities right across the county borough.

The Leader, Cllr Huw David, said: “We are not immune to the national financial challenges experienced by all local authorities and having already done everything we can to protect local residents from experiencing the brunt of cuts over the last 13 years, we are now at a stage where this is no longer possible.

“While we will ensure that all of our funding is used effectively and efficiently, we should also be prepared to make some particularly hard and unavoidable decisions before the council’s final budget is agreed for 2024-25.

“It’s also important that we consider the national picture of some services by considering the level of grants available from many organisations including UK and Welsh Government. With many grants due to end in the coming months, it’s important for us to consider the impact of this while preparing our draft proposals.”

The Cabinet member for Finance, Resources and Legal, Cllr Hywel Williams said: “The Medium Term Financial Strategy is very much a draft proposal at this stage. The proposal will undergo further scrutiny at a number of committee meetings, ahead of it being presented to full council on 28 February.

“The scrutiny of the budget forms part of the overall budget planning process, along with the public consultation that is currently underway.

“The council is committed to keeping council tax levels as low as feasibly possible but it’s important to recognise that inflation is currently running at a consistent high level and that costs for amenities such as energy are still extremely high.”

To make your views known about the 2024-25 council budget, and to find out more about how it is spent, please visit the council’s website.  The survey closes on Sunday 4 February 2024.

Fill in the survey online or to request a hard copy of the survey, email [email protected], call 01656 643664.

You can also write to Civic Offices, Angel Street, Bridgend, CF31 4WB.