Have Your Say on the Council’s plan to find budget savings

73 days ago

With the rate of inflation having not fallen as quickly as expected and consequently higher than anticipated pay awards for council workers and teachers, coupled with an extraordinary increased demand for services in fields like social, adult and children care Carmarthenshire County Council is once again facing a significant shortfall in its budget for the coming financial year.

Click here to access our Budget Consultation 2024

Following the Welsh Government’s below-inflation funding settlement of 3.3%, announced on December 20, Carmarthenshire County Council needs to bridge a shortfall of over £22million in its 2024/25 budget. 

Welsh Government acknowledge that they faced the “most stark and painful budget choices for Wales in the devolution era” as they prepared their draft budget, which includes the all-important Revenue Support Grant (RSG) allocated to local authorities. The 3.3% rise in the RSG, which makes up around three-quarters of our funding, falls well short of the contribution needed by the Council to maintain services as they are presently. Most of the remaining income, amounting to about a quarter of the total annual revenue budget, comes from the Council Tax, which raises over £100million a year. 

The Council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced annual budget, by ensuring that income from sources such as the RSG, the Council Tax, paid-for services and grants is enough to cover its expenditure.

Very difficult decisions lie ahead of Carmarthenshire County Council, and we are now inviting residents, businesses, community and voluntary organisations to have their say on a range of new policy saving proposals, drawn from across all Council services.

The online survey, which has gone live today (21 December 2023), gives residents an opportunity to express their views on, for example, council tax increase, staffing budget, household waste recycling centres, educational transport, public conveniences, and educational and youth provision. These will be considered alongside more than 100 detailed managerial proposals, such as procurement arrangements, staffing structures and internal and back-office functions.

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: 

Last year I said that in common with other Welsh local authorities, it was the worst financial budget in Carmarthenshire County Council’s history. I’m sorry to say that this year is worse still.
Despite the 3.3% increase settlement by Welsh Government, the Council is once more faced with a substantial budget shortfall as inflation has fallen more slowly than expected. Coupled with this, pay settlements and social care costs have increased significantly.
These financial pressures are unprecedented, and we are being forced into a course of action due to circumstances that are out of our hands.
Examples of the financial pressures local authorities are facing include a 1.5% consolidated increased pay rise for teachers in September 2022, and again this year. This was fully funded by the Welsh Government in 2023/24, but not for the coming year. This will cost the Council almost an extra £3 million, which wipes out more than a quarter of the increase in Welsh Government funding.
For some years now, Carmarthenshire County Council has been proud to pay the Real Living Wage as recognition of the hard work done by staff on lower pay, many of whom deliver essential frontline services. This is set centrally, and an inflation-led pay increase of more than 10% to £12 an hour means that the local authority has to add £6m to next year’s budget to meet the increased cost.
We have been through our finances with a fine-tooth comb, and are determined to do our utmost to protect our frontline services as much as possible. But we have to make very difficult decisions in setting a legal budget, and must look to make savings across all the services provided by us as a council. This is a very painful and often depressing exercise for all concerned. 
As local councils, we have suffered more than a decade of year upon year cuts to our funding. In real terms, in Carmarthenshire, our funding position is more than £100million worse off than we were a decade ago.
It is important that the public engages with us on the set of proposals that we have published today. I fully appreciate that these may prove unpopular. However, we believe that they are the least damaging measures of saving money, increasing income, and cutting services. I would encourage everyone to complete the online survey.

The budget consultation has now opened allowing people to have a say on the draft budget proposals.

Councillors will consider the views expressed in this consultation alongside managerial proposals to the value of around £11million when the budget is finally approved by Full Council in March 2024.

People can share their views online or by visiting a council customer service Hwb in Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford town centres.

The budget consultation closes 28 January 2024.