Cabinet endorses budget proposals for 2024-25

The Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council met earlier today (Tuesday 20 February) and endorsed the authority’s budget proposals for 2024-25 as part of its ongoing Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).


Following careful analysis of feedback from public consultation and the scrutiny process, the total gross budget for 2024-25 is £520m. After taking into account budget pressures of £30.4m and necessary reductions of just over £13m, the endorsed budget for providing more than 800 separate services in 2024-25 stands at £359.7m.


A planned reduction in school funding has decreased from a proposed 5 per cent to 3 per cent, and Cabinet has agreed that schools will receive additional cash to help meet pay and price pressures during 2024-25 which could reach as high as £5m.


Proposals for closing Bridgend bus station have been removed, and planned cuts to funding for street cleaning, recycling centres, community centres, play areas, support for children with additional needs, and support to help the third sector deal with hospital discharges have all been avoided.


With more than £110.5m set aside for capital investment, the budget includes a council tax increase of 9.5 per cent which the Leader, Cllr Huw David has described as being ‘necessary to help fund schools and social services, and to ensure the budget remains fully balanced’.


Funding plans for the year ahead include £113m for Schools, £105m for Social Services and Wellbeing, and £59m for council-wide budgets which cover areas such as council tax reduction, insurance budgets, discretionary rate relief and more.


Education services will receive £30m, and £30m will be provided for Communities. Services grouped under Chief Executive’s functions including homelessness and support functions will receive £22m.


Cabinet have also agreed to hold back just over £1m as a contingency fund in case any of its planned money-saving proposals are not realised in full, or additional pressures emerge.


Speaking at Cabinet, Cllr Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “Across the UK, councils have spent more than a decade successfully providing more than 800 different types of service while coping with increasingly reduced resources, austerity measures, the need to make year-upon-year savings, and the impact of events such as Brexit, the global pandemic and the cost of living crisis.


“You only have to look at daily news headlines to know that this is a national crisis, not a local one. Throughout it all, Bridgend County Borough Council has done everything in its power to protect local residents from feeling the full impact of these cuts, and has remained consistently ambitious for the area and the people we serve and represent.


“However, we have finally reached a point where ‘soft’ options have been exhausted, and we can no longer shield people from experiencing the effects of some of these cuts. Local government is facing unprecedented dangers as a whole, and Bridgend County Borough Council is not immune.”


Cllr David added: “We continue to face significant pressures, particularly across social services where there is a projected overspend of £12.5m. In order to meet our legal obligation of balancing the budget, a reluctant council tax increase of 9.5 per cent remains necessary – but I want to emphasise that this is where things like the £113m for schools, £105m for social services and £30m for education services will be coming from.


“In addition to feedback from public consultation, we have also taken on board as many cross-party scrutiny recommendations of the overview and scrutiny committees as possible in an effort to make the 2024-25 budget as representative as possible. Providing public services after more than a full decade of reduced funding and resources is no easy task, and I would like to thank everyone who played a part in this incredibly complicated process.


“Local government funding continues to face a difficult and uncertain future, but I want to reassure residents that Bridgend County Borough Council will continue to do its utmost to face this challenge, and to find new and innovative ways of delivering essential services as we move into 2024-25 and beyond.”


The proposals will now go before a meeting of full Council on Wednesday 28 February where they will be put forward for final discussion and approval by all members.