Bridgend County Borough Council has revealed where it is looking to make cutbacks next year as it faces a multi-million pound funding shortage.
The local authority launched its budget consultation on Monday, September 9, warning it is now reaching “breaking point” due to reduced funding from central government.
It is asking residents whether they would be prepared to pay an extra 13.6% in council tax in 2020/21 saying the increase would bring in an additional £10.7m and mean there would be no need for any service cuts.
The budget projections are based on an assumption that council tax will increase by 6.5% in 2020.
The proposed cuts affect services like street cleaning, CCTV, pest control, adult learning, education support services, and community recycling centres as well as events like the annual Elvis Festival in Porthcawl and the classic car show in Bridgend.
The council also wants to know what it should prioritise funding for the long-term asking residents whether it should only focus on services that support the most vulnerable or those that benefit everyone and if it should simply reduce all levels of service or charge residents for more services instead of losing them.
Council leader Huw David said: “We have already made multi-million-pound savings as we account for huge slashes in the funding we receive and have done everything we can to prevent residents from having to experience the full impact of cuts that have been widely reported elsewhere in the UK.
“The coming year is going to be the toughest yet and there are no easy options to save millions of pounds.
“Until central government decides to stop pummelling local government and instead provides us with adequate funding to provide the services that our residents deserve we will have to keep making some of the hardest decisions that we have ever faced in order to set a balanced budget which meets our legal responsibilities.
“If one service is prioritised it means that another service has to lose out so we need local people to work with us and tell us which services they want us to protect.”
Here we look at some of the proposed cuts in more detail.
The council could stop providing CCTV services.
There are currently 92 cameras across the county set up to watch traffic and help prevent crime.
The cost for rental, maintenance and staffing is around £372,000 a year.
Residents are being asked whether the council should stop providing the service completely or continue to fund it and make cuts elsewhere.
It warns removing the service may have negative impacts for community safety across the borough.
The council is looking to cut £100,000 – almost a fifth – of its housing budget which helps the homeless.
It points out that over the last three years there has been an 18% increase in people presenting themselves as homeless.
In 2018-19 some 1,322 households presented to the authority because they were homeless or threatened with homelessness – and the number is expected to increase.
Currently BCBC provides a free pest control service to residents when it comes to rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs.
It also treats other pests for a fee – fleas (£83) and wasps (£75).
The council could stop the service and instead direct residents to commercial companies to deal with pest control as some other local authorities do.
Services could become reactive meaning street cleaners would only deal with prioritised complaints about fly-tipping and bin emptying rather than carry out regular cleaning.
The council warns this would have “a visible effect” across the county.
Street cleaning currently costs £1.3m per year. The proposed changes would save £270,000 a year.
Community Recycling Centres
There are currently three community recycling centres in the county – Brynmenyn, Maesteg and Tythegston.
Under cost-cutting measures one could close, saving £100,000 a year – or each one could close for one weekday every week, saving £50,000 a year.
The Tythegston centre produces 6,097 tonnes of recycling with the Brynmenyn one producing 4,623 tonnes of recycling and Maesteg, 2,640 tonnes.
Town centre events
Town centre events like the Classic Car Show, Wartime Bridgend and CF31 street market are under threat with the council looking to pull £23,000 from its special regeneration fund which helps support events like these.
Residents are being asked if they think it’s important the council continues to fund events in the town centre.
The annual Elvis Festival in Porthcawl could lose £20,000 worth of support while other events such as the Senior Open Golf Championships could lose out.
The council is proposing to cut its £40,000 strategic event fund, half of which goes on providing support services for the Elvis festival like street cleaning, road closures and portable toilets.
Pop-up business school
The council could pull the plug on its £12,500 special regeneration fund which pays for a free two-week pop-up business school aimed at helping residents to set up their own businesses.
Bridgend Business Forum
Funding of £35,000 for the Bridgend Business Forum could end.
The forum, established in 2008 provides local business people with an opportunity to meet new customers and suppliers, learn new skills, share best practice, and keep up to date with issues that could affect their business.
As well as regular meetings the forum delivers business skills workshops, networking events and the annual Bridgend Business Forum Awards.
The council warns removing its funding could mean an end of the forum – unless members can fund it themselves.
Adult community learning
The council could end its £133,000 support to the adult community learning team which works across the county, helping adults overcome barriers that can prevent them reaching their potential.
Courses such as English, maths, holiday French, staying healthy and basic IT courses are currently taught across 20 venues.
The service which costs £263,000 also includes a £130,000 grant.
Residents are being asked if the council should stop providing courses in the community, reduce the number of courses and save £65,000 a year or continue to fund them as they are.
‘Escorts’ on school taxis or minibuses
The council could stop putting escorts on taxis and minibuses to primary schools that have less than eight pupils to save around £35,000 a year.
Some pupils are taken to school by taxi or minibus because they have a disability or are accessing alternative education arrangements.
At the moment the vehicles usually have an ‘escort’ on board whose main role is to ensure pupils board and alight the vehicle safely and that they are safe during their journey to school, for example, ensuring that seatbelts are fitted.
The council says it believes that drivers can carry out the role effectively.
Support staff for pupils with additional learning needs
The numbers of support staff which provide one-to-one support for children with additional learning needs in primary schools could be cut.
The council is proposing to cut £144,000 from the service which currently costs £628,000 a year.
Rather than the council providing the support it would instead give schools some of the money it uses to appoint their own support staff.
The council says this has already been successfully carried out in secondary schools.
Support for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
The council is looking to cutback its funding for the cognition and learning service which sees specialist staff working with SEND pupils in mainstream primary and secondary settings.
The service supports schools to ensure effective inclusion, achievement and progression of children and young people with cognition and learning needs such as learning difficulties or dyslexia.
The council is reviewing the service which costs just over £300,000 a year and could end up training staff in schools to deliver some of the services, helping save £61,000 a year.
The council says it can save £130,000 a year by moving away from face-to-face customer services interactions to more online services.
This would affect people reporting an environmental issue, council tax queries or any application that residents can currently call up about, email, contact over social media or see someone in the civic offices.
The council already offers online school admissions and various other services via the My Account provision.
Civic office appointments
A drop-in service at the civic officers which enable residents to speak to a customer service adviser at anytime during the normal workday hours could turn into an appointment-based system to help save money.
The current budget projections are based on an assumption that council tax will increase by 6.5% in 2020 – this would represent an average weekly increase of £1.84 per average Band D household.
The local authority warns the council tax could be further increased to protect services.
It asks residents what amount of council tax they would be prepared to pay, asking if people would be willing to pay an extra 13.6% in council tax so that that no council services would need to be cut in 2020-21.
What areas should capital funding be spent on?
Residents are being asked to choose their top three areas ranging from maintaining the current standard of road networks, investing in town centre projects and upgrading outdoor sports facilities to make them suitable for community asset transfers to sea defences, renewable energy schemes and school places.
The 2019-20 capital budget is currently £54.5m, which is made up of BCBC, Welsh Government and external grant funding.
The council says it can save £180,000 by developing a community hub model in four areas across the county.
It says the hub would act as a central point within the local community providing access to community and neighbourhood activities including day services.
The council’s consultation document states they aim to ensure people can be better supported within their local community and that they can develop stronger local support networks and gain the knowledge and skills to be more “active citizens”.
The hubs would not be for people with “very complex needs” due to their need for very specialist support and service.
Personal alarm and mobile response services
The council is looking to expand its personal alarm and mobile response services to the general public – and generate additional income of £150,000.
People signed up to the service use a “press button” pendant and sensors to alert a 24-hour monitoring centre, where a trained operator manages the appropriate response as required – it might include use of a response team or designated family, friends, carers or emergency services.
In 2019-20, the council tax in Bridgend went up by 5.4%, raising around £79m for the local authority – a quarter of its total budget.
The average increase in Wales was 6.4%.
There are 142,000 residents in the county.
Just over 40% of the council’s budget is spent on education and schools, currently costing £111m a year.
Over the past four years the council has made cuts of £27m.
It has seen staff cuts of over 400.
The council is facing having to make £35m savings by 2023.
BCBC’s budget is made up of government funding, council tax and business rate.
Currently more than 2,500 people receive the service from social services but the council is considering opening it up to residents not linked with social services who would be willing to pay around £40 a month for it.
Should BCBC look at becoming involved in commercial investments to fund and protect frontline services?
The council points out that many local authorities in the UK have bought hotels or funded shopping centres and warehouses, with some also providing residents with their gas and electricity supply – putting the money these ventures produce back into funding public services.
In 2018 local councils across the UK spent £93m buying hotels, almost triple the amount they spent in 2017.
They use low interest government loans to buy hotels and employ professionals to run them.
BCBC is asking residents if it did decide to invest in commercial ventures, should it be within Bridgend county only, within surrounding areas, or should financial returns be prioritised over the location.
It points out that there would be risks with the type of investment.
BCBC also wants to know residents’ views on whether it should investigate the possibility of generating income by providing energy to its residents.
‘Increasingly difficult to offer non-statutory services’
In the budget consultation document, BCBC’s deputy leader Hywel Williams said: “Since the UK entered the age of austerity it has become increasingly difficult for local authorities to offer many of the non-statutory services that people have commonly looked towards councils to provide.
“Despite this we are determined to provide high-quality essential services and ensure that we can continue to look after the most vulnerable among us.
“To achieve this as effectively as possible and ensure that we can reflect the views of local people as far as we are able to we need as many residents as possible to support the consultation.
“We continue to recognise that there is an untapped resource of capacity, talent and ideas within the wider community and we will be encouraging and working alongside local people to help them play a more active role as the council evolves and change its shape and scope
“By working with us and providing feedback on our budget proposals you can help ensure that we are more than capable of meeting local needs in these increasingly difficult circumstances.”
To take part in the ‘Shaping Bridgend’s Future’ consultation visit bridgend.gov.uk/consultation .
Paper copies can be gained by emailing [email protected] or calling 01656 643664.
The consultation closes on November 3.