Monmouthshire facing 'unprecedented times' of cuts to services
CUTS: Monmouthshire councillors are looking to reduce the choice pupils have over school meals and increase parking charges
CHARGING for green waste collection, increasing council car-park fees, reducing choice for children’s school meals but putting their prices up, and getting rid of leisure centre caretakers are some of the ways Monmouthshire council could plug a £4.3m funding gap.
The authority is also looking at department mergers and a review of staffing structures - but it is also proposing to give each councillor an iPad or a Google Nexus tablet computer at the same time.
A meeting yesterday heard the council was facing “unprecedented times” in terms of its financial challenges and the taxpayer will foot the bill for some services.
Longer term, the council is facing a funding gap of £16.5m for 2016/17, so a series of measures have been drawn up to claw back the deficit.
Cabinet member for finance and performance improvement, Cllr Phil Murphy, said charging for the collection of green waste, saving £420,000, could be the most “controversial” of these.
“We are looking at the possibility of charging for green waste removal, garden waste not food. The system could be wheelie-bin-based or bag-based,” he said.
Council leader Cllr Peter Fox said at the present time council tax would not increase, but warned of future rises.
“We are trying to ease the pressure on people by not putting council tax up now but the reality is it’s going to as that’s not sustainable,” he said.
Longer term, the council is facing a funding gap of £16.5m for 2016/17.
Car-park charges and fines may increase by 10 per cent, saving £100,000. They have not been upped since 2007.
“It’s unfortunate to say we are going to have an increase to block the black hole,” said cabinet member for county operations, Cllr Bryan Jones.
The council has suggested £140,000 could be saved by stopping caretakers opening and closing leisure centres.
The council is planning cutting menu choices for school meals, but putting the price of a meal up by 5p, to save £30,000.
Investing in fitness equipment in leisure centres was mooted as a way to make £100,000 in 2013/14 if custom increases.
Highways, waste and the street-scene departments are expected to merge into one, saving £120,000 , while a review of staffing is due to save £130,000.
The plans could also see an end of printing of agendas for meetings, saving £10,000 - but also purchasing tablets for councillors - and charging for the pest control service, saving £45,000.
Another proposal is to withdraw the sexton service at Chepstow and Llanfoist cemeteries, replacing it with a mobile service, saving £30,000.
Monmouthshire council gets less funding per head from the Welsh Government than any other in Wales and if it received the average, it would have £25.2 million extra to spend, Cllr Murphy said.
“This isn’t a pretty tale to tell. Capital budgets are going to come under severe strain as time goes on,” he added.