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Let's Talk - Together We Are NPT

Welcome to Let's Talk NPT.

We want to hear from you on our 2023/24 Budget Proposals

All councils in England and Wales have to deliver a balanced budget by law. In Wales the 2023/24 budgets must be set by 11 March 2023.

Like councils across the whole of the UK, the financial position for Neath Port Talbot Council is one of the most, if not the most, challenging we have ever faced.

The estimated budget gap for the council next year is almost £24m - more than any single year gap faced through the recent period of austerity.

As a council, we are doing and will continue to do everything we can to save money and protect the services we all rely on. We have identified significant savings, but these alone are not enough to close the budget gap for 2023/24, so are proposing a number of options to balance the budget in 2023/24. We would welcome your views on these.

You can read the full budget report here.

The closing date for responses to this consultation is midnight on Friday 10 February 2023.

Have your say

For people who are not online, there are paper versions of the questionnaire and feedback boxes at a number of public buildings across the county borough.

 

More information

Just like households, the cost of living crisis and rise in inflation is having a big impact on the council’s budget.

Our energy costs are rising by £8.5m. The national living wage is increasing by 10%. Neath Port Talbot’s share towards the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority budget will increase by £1.1m. We are also facing an increase in the cost of providing placements for children with additional learning needs. All this combined, has created a budget gap of £24m.

At the same time, as a result of the pandemic, the council’s income from theatres, car parks and leisure services has reduced.

By law, councils have to set a balanced budget which means we can’t spend more than we receive. So we need to find ways to close the budget gap.

The proposals aim to protect jobs and keep services running as well as giving us the ability to work with people who want to invest in our county borough to create new, well paid jobs.

The budget provides extra money for some services as well as identifying areas where we can reduce expenditure and raise income.

We would like to know whether you think we have got the balance right.

Additional Investment

The budget proposals provide £8.2m of additional money for schools – about 1% more than the funding provided to us by the Welsh Government.

Many children and young people have struggled to re-engage with their learning following the pandemic. There are more children and young people who have additional learning needs and more families needing help and support from social services.

The pandemic and cost of living crisis has created hardship for more of our residents. Giving all children and young people the best start in life is a key priority for the council.

The pressures facing adult social care services have been well publicised and Neath Port Talbot is facing these pressures too. The sector has been underfunded for a very long time making it difficult to recruit and retain the skilled workers needed.

We are increasing the social services budget by £12m.

This will stabilise the existing arrangements while we work with other councils and Welsh Government to identify the additional long term investment the sector needs.

Last year, additional investment was made in the visible services we provide. This is enabling us to make steady progress in improving our response to planning applications, street cleaning and all the other services that impact on the daily lives of residents. We are proposing to maintain this investment in the next 12 months and will be using Shared Prosperity Fund money to build on what we are able to deliver in our core budget.

Before the Local Government Elections the council took the decision to bring indoor leisure services provided by Celtic Leisure inhouse. The budget provides a plan to fund the extra costs associated with that decision and to keep indoor leisure services open next year.

Bridging the Gap

To meet the cost of inflation and the investments identified as priorities, the council needs to find £24m of savings or extra income. We propose to do that in the following ways.

Many parts of the council are working in a very different way as a result of the pandemic. We plan to save the following amounts as a result of these changes.

  • £811,000 – Office based work is now being carried out in a very different way which
    enables us to make a number of efficiency and economy savings – including reducing what we are spending on car allowances, office cleaning, postages, printing, general office expenditure, stationery and travel costs.
  • £158,000 – Because more people are working from home for some of the time we can close or re-purpose some of our office buildings. We have identified that we can save the running costs of five smaller offices occupied by the council achieving savings in rent, energy and running costs next year.
  • £611,000 – The council receives over £50 million in grant funding. We will be making
    the most of the grant funding we know we will have over the next couple of years by charging eligible costs of existing staff to activities funded by grant funded projects.
  • £574,000 – We run a number of services under what are called discretionary powers – that means there is a choice as to whether the council provides these services, or not. The cost of running services has increased so the fees, charges and income we raise to fund the services will need to increase also. We propose to raise fees within the council’s control by the rate of inflation - 10% - and will be updating business plans to increase income and reduce subsidies for Leisure Services and for Margam, Gnoll and Afan Forest Parks.
  • £150,000 – The new ways of working enable us to make further savings by reducing the digital/technology equipment based in offices. Most of our staff now have devices they can use on the go so we do not need the same level or type of equipment in our offices.
  • £13m – Most of our budget solutions come from large budgets we manage for the council as a whole - reducing the amount we have to pay to the pension fund due to the fund outperforming expectations; increased income on investments as interest rates improve; less people claiming council tax support; re-basing salary budgets as some jobs are not filled straight away and some are difficult to fill.

The budget solutions are short of what is needed to balance the budget.

Taking into account the cost of living pressures people are experiencing, a proposed Council Tax rise of 4.5% is the lowest practical level at this time. This will particularly allow the council to keep leisure centres and swimming pools open, and to pay the increase in the charge to fund the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue
Service.

This would mean an increase per month of:

  • £4.15 for Band A
  • £4.84 for Band B
  • £5.53 for Band C
  • £6.23 for Band D
  • £7.61 for Band E
  • £8.99 for Band F
  • £10.38 for Band G
  • £12.45 for Band H
  • £14.53 for Band I

We propose to use £4.9m of the council’s reserves to underpin the 2023/24 budget.

This will help us to keep the Council Tax rise as low as possible in the current circumstances. We need to use council reserves wisely as we have to plan to address a funding gap over the next five years. We estimate we will need to reduce the net cost of services by another £40 million over the following four years – meaning
we need to save £1 for every £5 we currently spend.

Face to face meetings on the financial position

Thank you to everyone who attended the public meetings in November and December to discuss the current economic conditions and what these could mean for the council and for council services.

If you missed the meetings, you can hear the overview of the situation and the council’s  approach in this video.