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Council looks to make PS24m cuts next year.

ANOTHER PS24m will be sliced off Cardiff council's budget next year in an effort to balance the books.

Residents will face another 3.7% council tax rise in a bid to meet the PS24.7m budget gap expected for 2017-18. That will add PS4.4m to the total.

Another PS15m will come from savings made by the council, PS1.5m from earmarked reserves and a limit on the amount of extra money given to schools, saving PS1.2m.

The rest will come from "new initiatives around income generation", which it says will mean working closely with neighbouring local authorities.

The cabinet member responsible for budgets, Graham Hinchey, has warned that services which the council provides which it is not legally obliged to could be under threat.

He said: "We have to look at everything we do to see if we can do it more efficiently.

Unfortunately, we have no choice but to take a long, hard look at those nice-to-have services, the ones we take for granted but which the authority does not have a strict legal responsibility to provide. I do believe people are beginning to understand the seriousness of the situation. We are stretched across the place."

The report to councillors warns that figure is not definitive and "must be regularly reviewed".

After consultation with residents, the budget will be set by councillors in March. In recent years, dementia services, libraries, drug and alcohol services as well as the controversial bin changes have all been touted in a bid to meet targets.

In 2016-17, the council cut more than PS30m from the budget. That came on top of PS113m in the previous three years with a further PS73m in the next three.

While the predicted cuts for 2017-18 are lower than previous years, it is warned the context of cuts in previous years has to be taken into account.

The decade from 2006-7 saw PS190m of savings, with more than 50% of those between 2013-14 and 2016-17.

A report going to full council's meeting today, says the impact of Brexit on local government funding is also not yet known.

Coun Hinchey said: "At this moment in time, with all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, we are proposing to leave the council tax increase at 3.7% as a planning assumption.

"This is the same level it was increased by in 2015-16 when we were below the average council tax increase set by the majority of Welsh councils.

"School budgets are not being cut, quite the contrary. In fact they are growing.

"We are investing more money in education than ever before, improving schools, building new schools and we are seeing the fruits of our efforts with much improved exam results. However, we are asking schools to find some money from their delegated budgets to go towards things like pay increases or utility bills.

"We are using some council reserves, but using reserves to fund the budget is not a long-term solution.

"A bit like using your savings to buy groceries - once they dry up you have a problem feeding yourself.

"We will continue to concentrate on our priorities of delivering better education and skills for all; supporting the vulnerable; creating more and better paid jobs; and working with our partners to transform the way services are delivered."

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 28, 2016
Words:548
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