Council tax freeze confirmed as budget agreed for 2022-23

Next year’s council tax will not be increased and there will be no cuts to frontline services as part of Bridgend County Borough Council’s budget for 2022-23.

A meeting of full Council held earlier today (Wednesday 23 February) confirmed how the local authority will spend its gross budget of £459m for the year ahead and which services will be prioritised following a record 9.2 per cent increase in funding from Welsh Government.

Members agreed to spend an extra £2.5m on ensuring that all care workers receive a pay rise which reflects the real living wage, and to provide local primary, secondary and special schools with an additional £1.5m a year.

Children’s social services, safeguarding and foster care will receive an extra £1.2m a year, while an additional £650,000 a year will be directed towards supported living services aimed at people with learning disabilities.

Children with additional learning needs will receive specialist support worth an extra £465,000 a year, £188,000 will be directed towards providing additional youth support across the county borough, and mental health services will receive an extra £147,000 a year. Last year’s £2.1m support for people who have been made homeless since the start of the pandemic will remain in place for 2022-23.

Elsewhere in the budget, funding for Education and Family Support services will total £131m, social care and well-being services will receive £78m, and public realm works such as parks, street cleansing and the collection and disposal of waste will receive £22m.

Transport planning and regeneration will receive £2.2m, while £1.7m will be invested in regulatory services such as Licensing, Environmental Health and Trading Standards.

Going forward, more than £71.3m will be invested into Band B of the council’s ongoing school modernisation programme, which is delivering new school premises and educational improvements.

The budget includes a capital budget which incorporates £6.8m of Welsh Government funding. Together with funding from the council, this will make an extra £2m available for the refurbishment of the highways network, £1.9m available for disabled facilities grants, £1.1m for minor works, and £400,000 for street lighting and bridge infrastructure renewals.

It will also enable the council to invest £400,000 in new ICT equipment, £340,000 for highways structural works, £250,000 in carriageway works, £200,000 for match funding externally funded capital schemes, £100,000 for housing renewal and empty property schemes, and £50,000 for various community projects.

Additionally, Welsh Government will fully fund initiatives that will provide all primary school children with free school lunches, and free childcare for all two-year-olds.

The Leader, Cllr Huw David said: “The additional funding from Welsh Government has resulted in the best settlement this council has received in more than a decade, and this in turn has enabled us to produce a budget which seeks to support local people as they face up to difficulties experienced as a result of increases in energy prices and the cost of living crisis.

“As the amount of money we receive to provide services was significantly higher than we were expecting, we have tried to reflect this by freezing council tax at its current rate, and avoiding having to make further cuts.

“We have also prioritised and safeguarded service areas which people have indicated they feel most strongly about, and have committed extra funding towards schools and social care for the elderly, children and vulnerable people.

“The challenge of setting a balanced budget of this size lies in ensuring that we have sufficient resources in place which are capable of delivering services effectively while keeping people safe and remaining fair to taxpayers.

“In developing and agreeing this budget, I believe that we have achieved this for the people we serve, especially as we have also been able to incorporate a healthy programme of capital investment for both the coming year and future years, including our 21st Century school modernisation programme, new childcare facilities, major road renewals, and regeneration projects in our town centres.”

Deputy Leader, Cllr Hywel Williams added: “This is a budget that will protect and prioritise those who are in most need, deliver major investments for Bridgend County Borough and ensure that we are able to meet the challenges of the year ahead.

“Setting a balanced budget is essential for any council to be able to function properly. People often assume that council tax funds everything when in fact it contributes just 19 pence out of every pound spent.

“When you consider that we will spend 58 pence in every pound on education, schools and social care, it helps to put the situation in context and demonstrates the huge size and scope of the annual budget.

“As such, I would like to recognise the constructive contributions that elected members have made to this process through the cross-party budget review and evaluation panel, and overview and scrutiny committee.

“I also want to thank the public for participating in our annual budget consultation, and for helping to shape the council’s spending plans for the coming year.

“This budget once again reflects all of our careful planning, ambitions and aspirations, and I want to reassure residents that Bridgend County Borough Council will continue to find new and innovative ways of delivering essential services.”