Council criticised for spending cuts while planning construction of multimillion-pound arena
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
A councillor has hit out at proposed cuts in Cardiff that were announced just months after the city council approved the construction of a new multimillion-pound arena.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats group at Cardiff Council, Cllr Rodney Berman, criticised a number of the proposals, which include reducing the frequency of black bin bag collections, at a cabinet meeting today (8 January).
The cuts to services and increased charges are part of the council’s plan to bridge a £30m budget gap created by several factors, including high inflation, pay pressures and increased demand on services.
Cllr Berman labelled plans to get rid of public bins on residential streets, which also form part of the budget proposals, “ridiculous” and said he thinks it could make the issue of fly-tipping worse.
The councillor said: “What a contrast to the cabinet meeting in November when it seemed at that moment you were able to splash the cash [on a new indoor arena]. Now we are looking at some horrible cuts to council services.”
The cost of building a new 15,000-capacity indoor arena in Butetown – £138m – will be paid up front by the council.
Council officials acknowledged there are risks with the development, but insisted it is affordable.
The £138m will be recovered from the arena’s operator – Live Nation – through annual lease payments over the course of a 46-year contract.
Cabinet members gave the go ahead for construction to commence at a meeting on November 23, 2023.
Cllr Berman said he recognised the difficulties the council faces in the lack of funding coming from central government and the Welsh Government, but still questioned the need to invest heavily in capital projects like the arena when the council is struggling financially.
On the council’s budget proposals generally, he added: “In terms of what we are looking at, I think there is going to be a lot of outcry from the community. We have already seen that.”
Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Chris Weaver, said the arena is a capital and invest to save project that will eventually bring money in.
He added: “There will be considerable spend within the council. We are still a multimillion-pound authority… [as a] council we will continue to deliver huge amounts of services within the city and still continue to deliver [capital projects]. I think it is important that we do so.
“You cannot ignore the long-term investment in the city.”
Cllr Weaver went on to say that investment in projects like the arena play a “crucial” part in ensuring the council is in a fit state for the future and that the indoor arena is an opportunity “the city would be seriously ill advised to miss” out on.
He and the leader of Cardiff Council, Cllr Huw Thomas, urged members of the public to engage in the public consultation on the budget proposals which runs until Sunday, February 4.
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