SWANSEA Council is set to invest a record amount in local communities, social care and education next year as part of Budget proposals to be considered by Cabinet next week.
A report to Cabinet next week highlights an extraordinary year which has seen the council build a hospital, new schools and regenerate large parts of our city.
The report also notes how the council has also supported thousands of people at risk of getting Covid-19 and keep essential day-to-day services going through the pandemic.
However, the Council is now also promising residents are set to see an extra £22m spent on services in the coming months taking investment to record levels.
Community services like street cleaning, road improvements and litter removal will get extra funding. At the same time, there will be millions of pounds more invested in education and schools as well as the social care services which have done so much to keep people safe during the pandemic.
Among the headlines in the budget Cabinet will be asked to agree above inflation investment in services across the council:
An extra £6.85m for education
£4m more for social care
Over £6m for roads cleansing and other community services
Spending power of around £1.8m a day on the people of Swansea
Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said:
“This time last year few could have predicted the incredible upheaval that the pandemic would bring. But I’ve never been as proud of our communities and our dedicated council staff as I am today.
“The vulnerable, the shielding, the young and those facing hardship have never needed their local council services as much as they do now.
“Our investment next year in critical day-to-day services like roads, littering, street cleaning and recycling will support them.
“Right now children are being supported to learn at home. It’s a new and sometimes challenging experience for them, their families and their teachers. But they are doing well. As a council we’ve provided 8,000 laptops for children who would otherwise struggle to keep up.
“In next year’s budget there will be room for more support for schools so that whatever happens, they will continue to have access to learning.
“We’ve recruited 140 new social care workers and opened two care homes to create more capacity to look after the frail and the elderly.
“It’s been much-needed but we will, of course, remain committed to keeping them safe and support the caring staff who’ve gone much further than the extra mile this past year.”
Cllr Stewart said that thanks to strong financial management despite the pressures of Covid-19, the uncertain economic climate and rising demand for services, there would be no need for compulsory job losses this year.
The report to Cabinet predicts an overall increase in financial support from the Welsh Government over the next five years of around £27m.
Education will continue to take the lion’s share of the budget with its total budget reaching £188.4m. Social services, including poverty and prevention, will see its share of the budget rise to £128.6m. It will also continue to see investment in the biggest ever capital programme of £150m for school improvements and rebuilding.
There will be an extra £6.1m allocated to services like waste and recycling, roads and transport, cultural services, libraries and parks, taking spending on these services up to £64.4m. This is to provide temporary additional funding for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cllr Stewart said it’s anticipated that the council tax rise next year will be around average compared to other Welsh local authorities and he added: “The total amount raised by council tax is significantly less than we spend on Education about the same as we spend on social services – caring for our vulnerable children and the elderly.
“Every penny of the extra £4m raised from the increase will go into education, social services and our communities. Not a penny of the council tax increase is being used to pay for the Arena or other developments in the city centre, and we have ensured that will be the case until at least 2026.”
“Thanks to what we expect could be the most positive Budget settlement from the Welsh Government in a decade, we will have the opportunity to invest millions of pounds more on the priorities of the people of Swansea next year.
“We are already doing more with less because the council has become smarter, leaner and more efficient. We have reduced back-office spending, automated services and cut red tape and that has helped slash the cost of what we do by millions of pounds.
By radically changing the way we work we have achieved savings of more than £70m in the last five years.”
He said: “The council was here for the people of Swansea during the pandemic and it will be there to support them through the recovery. Our budget proposals will help our communities take their next confident step forward in our city’s future.”
If the report to Cabinet is approved, its recommendations will be considered by a meeting of Full Council on March 4.