Plan to safeguard schools budget

BLAENAU Gwent council is to consider prioritising schools and front-line social services budgets and placing all other services as a lower priority.

The council’s chief finance officer, David McAuliffe said the draft interim strategy for the 2013/14 revenue budget would protect front-line services but warned the savings may not be enough to cover the £6 million costs.

Mr McAuliffe told the Joint Scrutiny Committee meeting, held at the Civic Centre on Monday, the preferred option is to safeguard school budgets and front-line social care budgets. The report also proposes to increase council tax by 2.6 per cent.

He said that prior to the last budget the council was advised to make revenue cuts of up to three per cent for each of the next three years. This has had a significant impact on those services that are not subject to the protection commitment given by the First Minister.

A three year strategic staff downsizing policy is now in its last year.

By 2012/2013 many services struggled to achieve savings targets through this approach and alternative cuts/savings measures were increasingly being proposed.

He said next year’s cost pressures total £6.4million and that the council has £3.4million in reserve.

"It’s quite clear there is no way we will be able to deal with all these cost pressures in one year."

"However the benefits of planning for even more severe cutbacks now need to be balanced against the risks associated with a significantly more austere strategy."

"The biggest cost is £3.5million for social services."

Under the proposal the council could save £1.072 million, but Mr McAuliffe warned staffing cuts are likely in order to make savings.

In his report identifying potential cost pressures, the budget for social services for 2013/14 is £3.457 million, education £732,000. highways £300,000 and environmental services £685,000. The council's executive committee will consider the proposal.

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