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Ground-breaking budget and recovery plan proposed for Neath Port Talbot

A COUNCIL tax freeze together with a number of other proposals designed to help address the cost of living crisis and help the county borough recover, look set to be on the cards for Neath Port Talbot residents next year. Councillors are due to consider what is being described as a ground-breaking budget next week.

Essential services that support residents, organisations and businesses could also benefit from millions of pounds in additional funding.

If approved, net spending on services across social care, education, environment, finance and corporate services will increase by more than £14m in the next financial year.

Furthermore, £2.8m could be earmarked for one off investments to kick start ‘Recover, Reset, Renew’ the council’s corporate plan, and respond to issues that people in the county borough said matter the most to them.

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The extra investment is made possible due to a healthy budget settlement from the Welsh Government and financial support for the ongoing pandemic response, together with prudent financial management. It is intended to accelerate the county borough’s recovery from both the Covid pandemic and years of UK Government austerity.

Cllr. Ted Latham, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said:

“Since last summer, through our ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign, we have been talking to people about the impact of the pandemic and about what matters to them now and for the future. This has shaped our corporate plan and informed our proposed budget.

“The recent rise in the cost of living, compounded by the pressures of Covid-19 have made the last few years especially tough for people, which is why earmarking some of the additional funding available to us next year to freeze council tax is a priority.”

Cabinet will meet on Monday 28 February to discuss the draft budget for the financial year ahead and the corporate plan. Budget headlines include:

Freeze in council tax so it remains at 2021-22 levels;
Extra £6.364m for social care, taking the budget to more than £95.5m;
Increase of £4.2m for education of our children and young people, taking the budget to more than £125m;
£1.8m extra for Environment, taking overall spending to £43.8m; and 
£5m increase to the capital programme to begin making improvements across neighbourhoods.

There are four priorities set out in the draft corporate plan –

All children have the best start in life; communities are thriving and sustainable; our local environment, culture and heritage can be enjoyed by future generations; and jobs and skills.

The draft budget also includes £2.8m for one off investments to support these priorities and Covid recovery, including:

£700k to give children and young people the best start in life – this includes a significant expansion of youth services to directly respond to what children and young people said was important to them in the ‘Let’s Talk’ conversation;
£1.5m to deliver a county borough wide range of projects to ‘catch up, clean up and green up’ our communities; and
£200k to develop strategies in relation to culture and environment, and leisure and tourism and additional support for jobs and skills.

Cllr. Ted Latham, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council continued:

“Throughout the pandemic, this council worked hard with our partners to support our residents and our business community.

“Our Safe & Well service supported more than 2,600 people who don’t have any friends or family to call on, we made more than 6,000 welfare calls to residents, facilitated more than £90m worth of business grants and relief and provided more than 10,000 digital devices to teachers and students so that our children and young people could keep learning.

“This support will continue through our corporate plan which provides the basis for us to further develop that spirit of collaboration to create a place where everyone can live a good life.”

Cllr. Carol Clement-Williams, Cabinet Member for Finance added:

“At 8.8%, our provisional settlement from Welsh Government is the best in more than a decade and, at last, gives us scope to start redressing some of the hardship brought about by years of austerity handed down from UK Government and exacerbated by the pandemic. I am pleased that we were the first council in Wales, to state our aspiration to freeze council tax to help ease the burden on families.

“In addition Cabinet recently made a trailblazing decision to bring leisure services back in-house. This will support our corporate plan by providing job security for leisure staff and enabling us to continue supporting many more people to live healthier lives.

“Allocating more than £125m to our education budget will further our commitment to giving children the best possible start in life, and enable our schools to continue their excellent work.

“The recent challenges faced by the social care sector have been well documented and the additional investment will help to reinforce our ability to provide care, support and protection for vulnerable adults, children and families.

“We know that the environment and having clean, vibrant, safe and well maintained neighbourhoods and town centres is important to our residents and businesses, and the extra £1.8m extra for Environment, will help us strengthen services including refuse and recycling, highways maintenance and business support.

“All told, the 2022-23 proposed budget represents more than £450m investment in services that support the people of Neath Port Talbot in their everyday lives.”

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