At last week’s Full Council meeting, Elected Members were given an update on the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan for 2018/19 to 2021/22 as part of the Council’s annual budget setting process.

Each and every one of us is fed up of austerity, yet as austerity continues to dominate Local Authority budgets, it is vital that all Council Members are informed of, and engage in, formulating the budget strategy for the coming year. We are under no illusions about the challenges we face and, as in previous years, modelling assumptions have been ongoing in anticipation of the Government’s Provisional Settlement, which is due in October.

The ‘base case’ assumes a reduction of 1% in our funding - which is equivalent to £3.6m per 1% - and clearly has a huge impact on our ability to effectively deliver the range of services we provide at a time of increasing costs and demands on services, especially in terms of social care. As has also been the case in previous years, once the process gets fully underway, the Council will seek to engage residents through as many channels and face to face opportunities as possible and further details will be announced shortly.

Council’s across the UK are all facing a common problem - a rising annual demand on key services, such as social services and education, whilst core funding is simultaneously being cut in real terms. It is therefore important that any extra funding through the Barnett consequential is directed to support these key areas and ease the mounting pressure on Local Authorities.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has done its utmost to act as a shield to Local Government in mitigating the impacts of austerity, and we only have to look across the border to see how Local Authorities such as Northamptonshire and Somerset are beginning to break under the enormous strain from cuts to funding. In my time as Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have always sought to approach our finances in a disciplined way and have consistently challenged ourselves to be proactive in meeting the difficulties presented to us by making in-house savings that, where possible, avoid transferring cuts to our public facing services.

I firmly believe that the budget setting process should be treated as a continuous cycle that begins the moment the new Financial Year starts, and not merely an annual event that is only given a few months of attention. By taking this approach, we have also been able to deliver a substantial programme of investment through #RCTinvest, which has seen significant investment in our highways, leisure facilities, play areas and schools. This approach has enabled us to take forward ambitious large-scale projects like the Taff Vale redevelopment and the Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link scheme, amongst others, and we will actively continue to push the boundaries in taking Rhondda Cynon Taf forward.

Posted on 30/07/2018