Monmouthshire County Council has tonight (Thursday 27th February) agreed its budget and Council Tax level for next financial year. The budget will protect front line services and education spending, increase social services spending, introduce for the first time a living wage for low paid employees and meet a £9m cut in Welsh Government funding. Council tax will rise by 3.95% and all front line services will continue, although some will be subject to charges for the first time. This is despite the continued low funding from Welsh Government. Indeed, the recent Welsh Government report, Local Authority Service Performance 2012/13, gave Monmouthshire credit for above average achievement despite below average expenditure in many areas.
As part of a wider consultation process, 37 ideas were brought forward from the council and taken to a round of public consultations and member seminars, Scrutiny committees and detailed discussions with the Trade Unions and Schools Budget Forum.
The extent of the consultation covered:-
- 3 Member Seminars – including the feedback on the first round of public sessions.
- 12 Public Meetings – including the special one on Usk Library and the very worthwhile Youth Service session.
- 13 Scrutiny meetings – where members chose the proposals that they wished to scrutinise.
- 2 YouTube videos
- Engagement on Twitter and other social media platforms
Councillor Phil Murphy, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said:
“This has been a long and inclusive budget process. We have chosen to spend this time responding to the challenge with purpose and in line with our stated priorities. Our priority has been to see continued investment in things that matter to the people of Monmouthshire. That is why the agreed budget will safeguard our:
- vulnerable people – young and old
- youth service
- leisure centres
- adult learning programmes
“Unlike most other councils, we are not closing things. We are working hard to keep services open and maintain the things that make our county special. This does come at a cost and so Council has agreed to ask people to pay a little more council tax (76p a week for a Band D household). We are matching this by reducing the reserves that we hold as a council – this seems fair to us and we still expect our services to improve. Our major commitment to start building new secondary schools, the first in Caldicot and the second in Monmouth, remains”.
“We are not just building a budget for one year – we have done the outline work for the next four, because we need to think into the medium term. The attitude and engagement of the people of Monmouthshire in this process over the last six months has been inspiring – you have told us about what matters to you and we have built our budget around this. We are determined to continue adopting innovative approaches to maintaining as many services as we can. But I know that some of what we propose to do – especially around street lighting and litter picking – will be more visible to people in their day to day lives than the significant back office savings that we’ve already made.”