Councillors in Blaenau Gwent have set their Budget for 2024/25 against a backdrop of difficult and sustained financial pressures. The Budget seeks to protect the frontline services most valued by residents and keep the Council Tax increase as one of the lowest in Wales.
The Full Council met today to set the Budget following months of careful financial planning, and after widespread engagement with residents, partners and stakeholders over potential savings and efficiencies and spending priorities.
The Council has received an uplift in funding from the Welsh Government of 2.8%, equating to £3.95million, which was once again below the average for Wales. The Council warned it would be extremely challenging to set a Budget considering the funding settlement, together with well-publicised cost pressures, continuing high inflation, soaring energy and fuel costs, and increasing social care demands.The agreed Budget includes a series of cuts from right across the authority totalling £6.618 million, with the remainder of the gap being funded through Reserves (£1.5 million) and reduced cost pressures. As part of the Budget, a Council Tax increase of 4.95% was agreed and schools will receive additional funding to support specific cost pressures equating to £864,000. Whilst their general budgets will be cash flat in line with needing to make savings across the board, overall schools will receive a 1.6% rise in real terms.
Council Leader, Steve Thomas says:
"We’ve always been transparent about our challenging financial situation, and we’ve highlighted the need for difficult choices and service adjustments to achieve a balanced Budget for 2024/25. We have sought to identify savings that should least impact the services our residents most use and appreciate. This allows us to continue supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.
“We understand that any rise in Council Tax might not be welcomed, but it was inevitable considering the huge savings needed. We’ve done our best to ensure this increase is as slight as possible, making it one of the lowest in Wales. Residents living in a Band B property, which accounts for most homes in the borough, will see a £1.35 per week increase in their Council Tax.
“In the past few weeks, we’ve consulted with our residents and other stakeholders to collect their opinions on our strategies for saving and generating funds. The response to our budget survey was positive, and I want to express my gratitude to all who participated. It’s essential for individuals to participate in local democracy and the decision-making process.
“We’re living through unprecedented times in local government. Several councils in England have had to issue S114 notices which is effectively declaring the authorities bankrupt, and every council here in Wales has had to raid their fast-diminishing reserves to help cover their budgets for the second year in a row. As with all councils, we’re gearing up for more tough financial challenges. We must figure out how to save around £34 million from our budget over the next five years after already enduring a decade of cuts totalling £40 million. The future for local authorities is grim, and adequate funding for public services simply has to be a priority for the next government.
“We believe that the budget we have created is well thought-out and balanced, and I would like to thank everyone involved in this process for their hard work and dedication.”