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Council leader explains tough decision being made

Created on 23/01/2020 @ 13:16
With a Council Tax increase of 5% on the cards and £11 million savings needed in the budget, Powys County Council's Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harries, explains what is happening at the council.

"The county council is starting one of the busiest times of the year the annual budget setting when we set out specific spending plans for 2020-2021 and direction of travel for the coming financial years.

It is prudent to manage budget over a number of financial years rather than confining action to one financial year, changes in public service delivery take time and it might be a number of years before the benefits of transformation work are fully realised.

Our task has been made a little easier with the first positive financial settlement from the Welsh Government for nearly a decade. The increase is much appreciated and will ease some of the pressures facing the council but we know there is still much work to do and we have to maintain transformation work to reduce our overall spending.

On Tuesday the Cabinet approved spending plans of nearly £270 million for 2020-2021 financed by a combination of funding from the Welsh Government and Council Tax.

The budget, which will be debated and hopefully approved by full council next month, will see a significant funding increases to meet cost pressures in Education and Children’s Services with an additional £6 million for schools. The funding will be needed to fund the government’s decision to support teacher’s pay and pension costs boosting the education budget to almost a £100 million per annum.

An additional £6 million is also earmarked for Children’s Services to meet the ongoing costs of supporting our most vulnerable children. The service has faced considerable pressure in recent years and is working hard to improve an important area of the council’s work.

The Cabinet’s plans also propose an additional £0.5 million a year for road maintenance, an area highlighted for concern by residents during last Autumn’s budget consultation exercise. This revenue funding along with £15 million of capital investment in highways over the next five years will help us to improve the condition of Powys roads.

To help fund these increases in spending on our front-line services we are proposing around £11 million of cost reductions across the Council, which will be delivered in the main by transforming services and driving further efficiencies.

We are also recommending a 5% in Council Tax to balance our budget, much lower than last year and in line with the feedback received during the public budget consultation. The increase will allow the Council to set a sustainable budget and protect front line services from further budget reductions.

Investment in the council’s infrastructure will continue over the coming three years with a staggering £532 million being invested in key projects recognising that we need appropriate buildings and facilities to deliver services now and into the future. The investment will not only support infrastructure but provide a significant boost to the county’s economy.

It was pleasing to see that last year’s OVO Women’s Tour of Britain provided a £645,000 boost to the county economy. The event attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Powys, many of whom stayed, spending well over a £1m with local businesses. We hope many will return in years to come supporting our local businesses.

It is too early to say whether or not the OVO tour or other event will visit Powys during 2020, there is huge pressure to attract high profile events to the county. But I am sure Powys will be a strong contender for future events and will do all we can to bring them to Powys. They provide an opportunity to showcase the county to the world and are important for the economy."