October 2016

As a Councillor you know Christmas is getting close because the Welsh Government budget is due to be announced this week.

Yes that time of year has arrived and once we have assessed the detail and the potential implications for RCT, the Council will begin consulting on a potential approach to ensure the Council sets a legally balanced budget. Proposals on exactly how we consult over a six week period to support the development of the 2017/18 budget strategy will be considered by Cabinet next week.

We know that cuts to public spending imposed on Wales by the UK Government result in incredibly difficult circumstances for the Welsh Government to decide how to slice up an ever decreasing cake between all of Wales’ vital public services. As a result of the same set of circumstances between now and January we as a Council will need to hold the same discussions. When I first became a Cabinet Member I can fondly recall, at the same time of year, the dilemma being very different; we would have received a healthy increase and would be deciding which services to invest in instead of today considering how we make savings when the pressures on services continues to increase. While we know we will face a budget gap moving forward as a result of austerity, the level of this gap will be determined by the details of the financial settlement and our continued focus to target and deliver efficiencies and savings year round is securing one off funding to make the investments we are making in areas such as highways, leisure, schools, parks and regeneration still possible.

Many of you will have heard the news last week that the Cabinet Secretary for Procurement publically announced that he is minded to end the Communities First.  Although it has evolved over the years, Communities First has been in existence for 15 years and has made a positive impact in many areas of RCT. However our communities and public services now face a wider range of challenges and it is therefore timely to review whether Communities First remains fit for purpose and explore the establishment of a new approach to tackle poverty in our communities. While I support this move, I have written to the Cabinet Secretary to seek assurances that there would be a phased withdrawal of any support the programme provides and that alternative means are sought to support many of the community facilities which rely upon the income the project provides. The Chief Executive and I have also written to staff employed as part of the programme to inform them that should the scheme end we will seek to look at all possible opportunities to support them.

Next Wednesday (October 26th) I will conduct my Leader’s Annual Debate. This debate as part of the Council meeting offers the opportunity for me to present on what the Council has delivered upon over the last twelve months and what we intend to achieve moving forward. The recent publication of Council Performance by the Local Government Data Unit, which highlighted RCT’s performance as one of the most improved in Wales, provides a positive backdrop for this meeting.

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