RECORD-levels of investment in community services and one of the lowest council tax rises in Wales has been agreed by Swansea Council for the coming year.
The council has agreed budget proposals for an extra £22m of investment in services across the board next year, and a further £60m over the next four years.
Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart said:
“The last 12 months have been difficult, challenging and traumatic for many in our community. The council has transformed the way it operates to be here for the people of Swansea, supporting them through the pandemic.
“Thanks to the vaccination programme and the efforts of so many people in abiding by the rules, there is clear progress being made.
“This is a budget to help local businesses recover from Covid, to support families and residents who are struggling and to protect and create jobs and opportunities. It will invest heavily in services people rely on every day that have been even more critical this past year.”
Among the budget highlights:
Schools will get an extra £6.85m direct into classrooms, with £7.1m for new IT kit that has been such a help to schooling-at-home recently. Parents will see school meal prices frozen for the year;
Social care services that have borne the challenge of Covid-19 in supporting the vulnerable will get £7.7m more. Plus there’ll be £5.5m on top to absorb any further pandemic pressures;
For the environment, there will be an extra £6.1m and new teams to deal with litter, street cleaning and extending pothole repair services. There will be a new rapid response team to deal with flood problems;
There will be more cash for better sports, park and community facilities, including £100,000 for improved public toilets, new free public wi-fi services and investment in planting thousands of new trees and developing more green space;
£50m for better council homes and £7.5m to build new ones, helping create new apprenticeships. £4m will be given to prevent and reduce homelessness with £330,000 targeted at continuing the ‘always a bed’ campaign for rough sleepers after the pandemic; and
Capital investment will see the completion of the new arena, plans for the greening of Castle Square garden, the introduction of new business and community services’ hubs in the city centre and other work designed to create thousands of new jobs and extra footfall to benefit business.
Cllr Stewart said that the 2.99% council tax rise was the equivalent to 63p a week for a typical Band B property.
He said that thanks to the strict financial management of resources the council has set a level of council tax which is fair but also reflects the additional pressures residents and families will be under following the pandemic.
“The last 12 months have been very tough, traumatic times for many families. It is still early days but there are signs of recovery and, thanks to extra funding and support we’ve had from Welsh Government, Swansea will emerge from the pandemic with renewed optimism, vigour and ambition.”
No redundancies are expected this year thanks to efforts made by the council to protect and invest in jobs and services.
The commitment to ensuring the costs of the major city developments remain fully funded and do not fall to residents are maintained, with zero cost this year or for at least the next five years.
Cllr Stewart said:
“We are investing in community priorities that affect our lives and every penny will go directly to education, school social care, child-care or community priorities.
“It is the equivalent of £4,000 for every family in Swansea, which represents record investment in the services that people rely on every day.”