Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent hold budget talks
6:36am Thursday 13th February 2014 in Gwent news
MONMOUTHSHIRE'S cabinet and Blaenau Gwent's executive committee both met to discuss their budgets yesterday.
In Monmouthshire, council tax may rise to 3.95 per cent if it is approved by full council at the end of this month after the cabinet met to to approve the recommendations for the budget proposals for 2014/15.
The council had previously proposed a council tax increase of 3 per cent but has now amended this to 3.95 per cent.
The Blaenau Gwent meeting saw the budget discussed ahead of the council tax rate being set on March 5 at full council with the committee hearing that the council has spent less than predicted, which officers believe shows the council is making progress.
In the Monmouthshire meeting, Cllr Phil Hobson, member for community development, said: “We will raise council tax as we need to as much as necessary and to raise as little as possible. Prices of energy, insurance and food are all increasing we’ve got to be mindful of that.”
Cllr Peter Fox, council leader, said: “We spent a lot of time explaining the budget in the consultations and the people did understand this. Most people understood the difficulty with the budget.”
A budget gap of £664,000 still remains for the budget 2014/15. The Tourist Information Centre in Abergavenny will have to find a new permanent location and will have be open for less hours to save costs.
The Tithe Barn, which is part of St Mary’s Priory is being considered as a long term solution.
Cllr Bob Greenland, member for innovation, enterprise and leisure, said: “Brecon Beacons National Park have withdrawn their support for the TIC. This makes the current position in Abergavenny even more difficult.
“TICs mostly benefit the immediate area, we are looking at redistributing services to stakeholders and town councils. If they value services they could help us with costs and help us keep this service open.”
The final budget proposals will be discussed at the next full council meeting on February 27 at County Hall, Rhadyr near Usk.
In the Blaenau Gwent meeting, a report on capital expenditure up to December 31 2013 presented to the committee by chief financial officer David McAuliffe said total spending for the financial year 2013/14 was £29.7 million, against a predicated estimate of £35.4 million.
However, officers were warned not to become complacent and to continue keeping within budget allocations for the council to continue to improve.
Deputy leader of the council Stephen Thomas, who was chairing the meeting, sad: “This result is testament to the massive amount of work that has been put in by this council. Back in June there were a lot of concerns, but thanks to the hard work of officers and members we find ourselves in this position, which puts us on firmer footing going forward.
“Obviously some difficult decisions have been made, and will be made, but of course talks are still ongoing.”
Cllr Jim Mcllwee added: “The amount of changes that have taken place in the last year are massive. Staff and trade unions have acted in a very professional manner and I would like to pay tribute to everyone involved in this difficult period and the difficult times ahead.”
The council is expected to have underspent by £10,000 by the end of the financial year in March, as five portfolios are currently reporting a favourable variance of £1.10 million and five portfolios are reporting an adverse variance of £1.09 million.
The committee also heard The Works programme, as of December 31, 2013, is £840,000 in deficit, mainly due to the Peripheral Distributor Road (DPR) project forecasting a £988,000 overspend. The committee was told officers are ‘exploring options’ to fund the deficit.
Cllr Thomas added: “It’s important to recognise the extent of this project. It has been delivered mainly on time and mainly on budget. We have delivered a fantastic project to Blaenau Gwent and this kind of deficit is normal at the end of a project like this."