‘Nothing off the table’ in £25m Newport cuts plan
9:09am Friday 6th December 2013 in Gwent news
THE leader of Newport council says nothing is off the table as he prepares to present more than 100 proposals for four years’ worth of cuts and savings to the city.
They include raising council tax by five per cent every year for four years, Newport libraries closing for one day a week, shutting public toilets and ending the budget for the Newport Ship.
The council’s Labour cabinet will consider whether to put the plans – which include the 2014/15 budget as well as items that stretch to 2017/18 – out to public consultation on Thursday.
Altogether the authority – which has a budget of around £250 million a year – needs to save £25 million over four years with £10 million of cuts needed in 2014/15 alone.
Public meetings are set to be held to discuss the proposals which can all be viewed at the council’s website.
Newport is not alone in having to make difficult cuts because of the squeeze on public funding from the UK government , and councils across Gwent are having to save more than £50 million next year.
Most of Newport’s funding is channelled through the Welsh Government which is set to cut the authority’s grant by 1.2 per cent next year.
Meanwhile, demand is increasing for the authority’s services.
Bob Bright, Newport Council leader, said: “We are now at the stage where further cuts and radical changes to how services are delivered are inevitable however tough that may be.
“These budget proposals show that nothing is off the table. It is vitally important that people take part in this consultation and use this opportunity to share their views.”
Currently the financial plan factors in raising council tax by five per cent every year until 2018.
The authority could still close New Willows respite home – as proposed previously – by 2016. The closure of the day-care facility at Hillside could meanwhile save £799,000 by 2017.
Newport Ship’s budget will be reduced to nothing by 2016 with cuts of £245,000, although the council says it is committed to completing the conservation phase of the ship timbers.
Public council toilets with the exception of those at the new Market Square bus station and Austin Frairs could be closed in 2014/15, saving £137,000.
The Riverfront Theatre could be managed by a third-party organisation by April 1, 2016, saving £300,000.
Belle Vue Park bowling green, pavilion and changing chalet could become self-managed and be moved to the Belle Vue Park Bowling Club, saving £24,000.
Newport’s schools library service could end, while Newport Museum and central library could close one day a week in 2014/15.
One proposal would see no replacement equipment provided in children’s play areas. Equipment would be removed from areas in poor condition, which require significant investment to replace or are magnets for anti-social behaviour.
This may include the Outdoor Water Play Feature at Tredegar Park and two Multi Use Games Areas.
Alternative funding could be sought for the Big Splash event from 2015 onwards, saving £50,000. The event will not take place if funding cannot be found.
The authority could also look for sponsorship for the Newport Food Festival and Christmas events from 2015, while sponsorship for the Christmas lights from next year could also be sought.
Commercial pest control services could end, while the council may look to cease its CCTV service by 2017 unless it can make it cost no more than the revenue it generates. Funding for Tredegar House could be slashed by 2016/17 by £150,000 per year if visitor numbers reach 120,000 per year.
Spending on theatre arts and events may be reduced by £60,000 in 2014/15, while arts development work could be reduced to zero, saving £18,000 by April 1 2016.
Public meetings to discuss the budget proposals will be held on December 16 at Malpas Court’s Library and Drawing Room, December 18 at Newport Stadium’s John Charles Suite and January 16 in the Castle Room in Newport Centre.
There will be two time slots each day – noon to 2pm and 5pm to 7pm.
For more on the plans see Saturday’s Argus.
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