Council braces itself for service cuts and tax rises to plug £12 million funding gap
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
Cyngor Gwynedd is bracing itself to make some “difficult decisions” which could impact the most vulnerable, as it faces a £12m funding gap.
Vital service cuts and council tax increases are on the cards as Cyngor Gwynedd copes with its biggest cash shortfall faced in a single year.
By law, Council members must set a balanced budget, whilst still providing vital services, at its meeting in March 2023.
Just before Christmas, work started to investigate which services could be cut in the New Year.
A council spokesperson said: “Cyngor Gwynedd continues to be in a difficult position, we face having to set a balanced budget yet still provide services for the most vulnerable. In mid-December, Welsh Government confirmed that our budget will increase by 7% for 2023-24.
“This is slightly lower than the average for Welsh councils at 7.9% and does not cover inflation nor the increase in demand for services caused by the cost of living crisis.
“We are therefore looking at a £12 million funding gap, our worst ever in a single year. As a Council, have no choice but to find the responsible balance between service cuts and Council Tax increases, some very difficult decision are coming.”
Following the local government financial settlement announcement by the Welsh Government, council leader Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn said: “Since the Westminster Government’s autumn budget we anticipated that things will be bleak for us, the announcement confirms that we will face a significant financial shortfall in 2023/24.
“At first glance, it appears that things will not be as bad as forecast a few weeks ago as Gwynedd will receive more money next year. In reality, this settlement is among the worst in real terms that we as a Council have ever received.
“The costs of everything needed to provide local services for Gwynedd – such as energy, goods and labour have increased by 11% since the autumn, which is an additional cost of around £22 million.
“At the same time the demand for services such as homelessness has shot up as a result of the cost of living crisis. The increase of £14 million in the settlement is simply not sufficient to cover this.
“We have no choice but to either cut services, increase Council Tax significantly or strike a responsible balance.”
He added: “We have faced financial challenges in the past but this is the most dramatic situation we have seen brought about by a combination of huge cost increases and enormous additional pressures due to the cost of living crisis, hitting us within a very short period of time.”
But he claimed that “sound financial planning over the years” had meant the council’s position was “relatively stable”
He said: “We are determined to continue to protect our most vulnerable residents and key services.”
Council tax premiums
The council recently took the widely publicised step to allocate additional income by increasing Council Tax Premiums on second homes to help tackle homelessness.
“If it wasn’t for this, we would have to raise the Council Tax for everyone by an additional 4% on top of the increase we will have to introduce from April onwards to pay for homelessness services alone,” Cllr Siencyn added.
“There is no doubt that extremely difficult decisions cannot be avoided across all service areas.”
A £193,000 package of support measures is available to the help county’s residents, until March 2023.
The council has an online ‘one-stop shop’ of information and advice, covering topics such as household bills, benefits, and where to find support.
Officers have also been appointed to help people cope with the cost of living crisis. Chloe Roberts and Victoria Jones help direct people to the support available through drop-in sessions across Gwynedd.
Working with local groups, they help ensure affordable food is available and helped develop a network of ‘Croeso Cynnes’ warm hubs.
Ffion Haf and Meilyr Tomos, energy advisers can also point people to where help is available, including energy efficiency improvement plans for homes or short-term help through the winter.
For help with the cost of living crisis in Gwynedd visit www.gwynedd.llyw.cymru/CostOfLivingHelp
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