Labour’s Budget to Deliver £180m Investment Over Next Three Years

Labour’s plans to invest £180m into RCT were given the green light last month, after the ruling Group’s budget proposals were passed by a majority in Council.

The three year capital programme will build on the significant improvements generated by the £200m #RCTInvest scheme that is due to expire at the turn of the financial year. Under Labour, RCT has benefited from huge levels of investment over the last three years, with over £100m spent on improving our schools, over £30m spent on improving highways and strategic projects, and over £5m on leisure facilities and play areas.

The Labour-led administration continues to be a safe pair of hands for RCT, and even in spite of the continuing pressures stemming from Tory austerity, they are continuing to deliver on all of the ambitious public commitments made at last year’s local elections.

In January, Council Leader, Andrew Morgan, announced that an extra £300m would be invested into key projects and priorities across the County Borough over the course of the next five years, over and above the Council’s normal capital programme. This means that approximately £450m could be spent on communities across the County Borough over the next three years alone, clearly demonstrating that Labour’s sound financial management has created opportunities for unprecedented levels of capital investment.

The 2018/19 budget will also see RCT have the lowest increase in Council Tax in Wales at 3.3%, following on from consecutive years of the lowest local increases in the Authority’s history. On average, residents in RCT already pay the sixth lowest rates per dwelling in Wales, and Labour is working hard to protect residents from the effects of continued Tory austerity.

Once again, the Plaid Cymru group shied away from collective responsibility and abstained on voting on the revenue budget for the sixth consecutive year. In the preceding debate, the proposals forwarded by the Plaid Group would have seen an extra £359,000 added to the Council’s deficit and transferred the effects on to next year’s budget, which is set to hit Councils hard with significant cuts to funding.

Speaking on Labour’s sound and legally balanced budget proposals, a spokesperson for the Labour Group commented: “Unsurprisingly, the Plaid Cymru group abstained on voting on the revenue budget, meaning that they have failed to come up with any credible alternatives for six years now. It seems that they are content to criticise and talk down communities in RCT, but are unable to present any credible alternatives to what Labour is doing locally.

“Once again, Plaid recklessly bandied around figures and proposals that would have placed further pressure on the Authority. This shouldn’t come as any great surprise though, given that the Council Tax reorganisation the Party proposed in 2016 would have seen over £12m taken from RCT Council’s revenue, yet they haven’t said a word on where that money would be covered from!

“Residents haven’t forgotten that Plaid Cymru increased Council Tax rates by over 38% during their time in office between 1999 and 2004, and even increased Council Tax by 12% in one year. This was at a time of bumper Council settlements, so it’s not hard to imagine what they would do in a time of massive budget cuts.”

Labour’s Council Leader, Councillor Andrew Morgan, added: “This budget shows that Labour is continuing to work hard to protect our communities from the effects of Tory austerity here in RCT.

“Our proactive approach to managing the budget cuts we are handed down year in, year out, has shielded our residents from the worst of austerity and the early identification of in-house efficiencies – which will total over £7m for this budget alone – has been crucial in achieving this. This has enabled us to release significant capital funds to reinvest in our communities in strategic and beneficial projects like the Taff Vale development. It has also allowed us to provide an extra £1m uplift for our schools education budget, which is double what we have previously committed to and is testament to the importance we place on developing our future generations.

“Progress continues to be made in delivering on all of our public commitments, and the recent announcement that an extra £300m will be invested into the County Borough over the next five years highlights our continued ambition and desire to keep pushing the boundaries for a brighter and better RCT.”

How are we doing on our commitments so far?

In 2017, we promised to:

  • Protect the schools education budget from Tory cuts and increase the funding by at least £1m each and every year

This year, we have:

  • Increased the schools education budget by £2m in recognising how important our future generations are to the County Borough.

 

We promised to:

  • Invest in Extra-Care facilities throughout the County to ensure those that need care and support in their old age get it

So far:

  • Identified 4 further sites across the County Borough to provide a total of 300 units, and continued work to develop the Maesyffynnon site in Aberaman.

 

We promised to:

  • Continue to invest in children’s play areas to make sure every child has access to good facilities

So far:

  • Continued to improve play areas across the County Borough and the next tranche of investment will shortly be considered. Over half of the total play area improvements in Wales have been carried out in RCT.

 

We promised to:

  • Work with the Welsh Government to deliver the Valleys Metro to ensure we have a modern and efficient train service

We have:

  • Identified a number of park and ride schemes for development across the County Borough, whilst the City Deal Cabinet has recently approved £40m of City Deal funding to the Metro Central project, which will be the foundation for extending the Metro upwards through the Valleys.

 

We promised to:

  • Invest in our outdoor sports facilities with new 3G pitches to encourage physical activity

We have:

  • Continued with our programme of delivering state of the art, community use 3G pitches across RCT, and we are in the process of ensuring that no resident is ever more than 3 miles from such a facility. We have also invested over £3m into Council-owned leisure centres, at a time when other Authorities are having to outsource leisure provision.

 

We promised to:

  • Invest in infrastructure across the County Borough including the Mountain Ash Cross Valley Link, dualling of the A4119 at ‘Stinkpot Hill’, completion of the Llanharan Bypass and the Taff Vale redevelopment

We have:

  • Progressed work on the Cross Valley Link scheme and work has started on site on the almost £50m Taff Vale development. Further funding has been released to support the continuation of preparatory works on the Llanharan Bypass and the dualling of the A4119. Recent plans have also been announced to deliver a Gelli-Treorchy bypass and a A470/A4059 Aberdare link route.

 

We promised to:

  • Support our town centres with free public access Wi-Fi and a new maintenance grant to support small traders.

We have:

  • Rolled out the pilot town centre maintenance grant in Tonypandy and Mountain Ash and continued to invest in our town centres, with £1.5m announced in the budget to support the Tonypandy pedestrianisation scheme. Plans are currently being developed for the rollout of free Wi-Fi in our town centres.

 

We promised to:

  • Continue the significant investment in our highways by resurfacing hundreds more roads and footways across RCT.

We have:

  • Carried on with our significant highways improvement programmes, with over £20m spent in this area in 2017/18 alone. Only around 5% of roads in RCT are classed as red, or requiring urgent attention, and further investment proposals will be brought before the Cabinet shortly.

 

We promised to:

  • Fund over 150 Apprenticeship and Graduate posts within the Council to boost youth employment in RCT

We have:

  • Already filled 45 positions, consisting of 34 apprentices and 11 graduates, who started their two-year programmes in September. Further positions will be made available in the future.

 

We promised to:

  • Work with the Welsh Government to build further new 21st Century Schools across the County Borough.

We have:

  • Modernised a number of schools across RCT as part of the £160m Band A phase of the C21st schools initiative, including the Aberdare Community School and Y Pant Comprehensive School, whilst work continues on new and improved schools across the Rhondda and Tonyrefail. A further £160m has been agreed to deliver Band B of the programme in the coming years.

 

We promised to:

  • Roll out the Welsh Government Free Childcare offer – the most generous in the UK.

We have:

  • Successfully introduced and expanded the pilot in a number of ward across the County Borough.

 

We promised to:

  • Keep our streets and highways clean, take further action to tackle dog fouling, improve recycling rates and invest in our green spaces.

We have:

  • Introduced a tough new Public Spaces Protection Order to combat the issue of dog fouling and secured our place amongst the top 10 recycling Local Authorities in Wales. Funding has also been identified for investment in our parks and green spaces over the next five years.