Monmouthshire County Council launched its draft budget proposals and engagement process on Wednesday 19th December. Its proposals have been put together amidst a set of challenging circumstances where the council continues to face significant financial challenges, in terms of further reduced funding from Welsh Government as well as significant and unavoidable pressures.
These budget proposals look to support the priorities of the council. Specifically, they seek to recognise in full all pay and pension-related spending pressures in its schooling system and the increasing demand placed on children’s social care services. The budget proposals see a continuation of the council’s preparedness to challenge all services to improve rather than to see the closure of services that matter to citizens. There is an acknowledgement that when things close they never return and it is better to scale back rather than absolutely withdraw. In overall terms there are some £5.7 million of new unavoidable pressures that needed to be accommodated for the 2019/20 budget.
It is never popular to charge for services but the reality is that the council needs to do so. It proposes increases in a number of areas. Likewise, increasing council tax is never popular but with the retreat of Welsh Government funding, local taxation is by default having to shoulder a greater proportion of overall funding. These budget proposals assume a council tax rise of 5.95% for 2019/20 and 3.95% for the remaining years of this council.
The proposals will lead to changes in a number of areas which could impact on residents. The proposed changes include:
- Household Waste and Recycling Centre – where the council will introduce the use of permits for Monmouthshire residents. No charge will be paid for the permit. They are aimed to reduce use by the public from neighbouring counties. In turn, the permits will reduce the waiting times at Monmouthshire sites for residents. The council is also considering limited day closures at its recycling centres, the pattern proposed avoiding weekend closures.
- Recycling bags – proposals to introduce new reusable hard wearing polypropylene plastic bags which will end the use of red and purple single use bags. This will improve the quality of material collected for onward recycling as well as reduce the use of single use plastics. The bags will hold more recycling and create an increase in kerbside recycling.
- Food Waste recycling – which looks to increase and encourage more households to recycle food waste using recycled plastic bags.
- Changes to car parking charges – where proposals include amendments to the current charging regime and introduction of charging at Severn Tunnel Junction.
A comprehensive list of the proposals can be found on the website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020
A range of engagement opportunities will be available to provide residents with an opportunity to hear about the draft proposals and the wider budget context for the council and enable residents to share their thoughts too.
Face to face meetings with groups include disability groups, older people and young people, the council website, its social media channels, select committees and visits to town and community councils. Residents are welcome to attend the sessions to gain an understanding of the budget and impact on communities.
The following engagement events will take place with more to follow:
- Access for All Forum – Budget Special Friday January 10th 10am to 12noon at County Hall, Usk.
The forum is an opportunity and a valuable platform to enable people with disabilities, parents of children with disabilities and older people from across Monmouthshire to have their voice heard, receive information and contribute to consultation and engagement processes.
Communities are welcome to attend area committee forums to hear information based on their locality.
- Lower Wye Area Committee 23rd January 10am Chepstow Leisure Centre
- Severnside Area Committee 23rd January 10am Innovation House Magor
- North Monmouthshire Area Committee – 30th January Llanfoist Village Hall 1pm
- Central Mon Area Committee 31st January 4pm Monmouth Comprehensive School
Leader of the Council, Cllr Peter Fox OBE said:
“I encourage residents to take the opportunity to take a look at our proposals. For many years we have been hit by the Welsh Government Settlement and this year is no exception. We will continue to try our best to provide services for our communities but with this comes with challenges and changes. I urge residents to read about the changes and come along to a forum or meeting to hear how we are working to make savings, not lose services.”
A survey is available to share feedback – visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/budget-2019-2020