Council leader outlines plans to navigate £50m of budget savings
Nicholas Thomas – Local Democracy Reporter
The leader of a council has not ruled out a reduction in council workers as part of the local authority’s efforts to cope with looming financial pressures.
But this will focus on retirements, reshuffles and voluntary arrangements, rather than redundancies, he added.
Nearly £50 million of savings will be required over the next two years if Caerphilly is to keep services running, cabinet members reiterated at a full council meeting on Wednesday.
In anticipation of shrinking budgets on the horizon, the council underspent by an estimated £8.3m last year.
The leader of the Plaid Cymru group has sought reassurances the council will remain committed to its responsibilities to taxpayers.
Caerphilly leader Sean Morgan said the council’s “transformation programme” would help absorb the shock of the wider financial pressures, but acknowledged cost-cutting measures could include a “reduction in staff numbers”.
“We will look at retirement, voluntary departure options, moving within the organisation to new opportunities, and we will assess how roles can be reimagined going forward,” he told colleagues.
The council will also look at “using fewer buildings, being more business minded, and making our services more accessible” as ways to save money.
But when Caerphilly residents can be better supported by another organisation, such as Citizens Advice Bureau, the council will “signpost them” to that service rather than using its own resources.
Plaid group leader Lindsay Whittle said: “I hope this will not negate any responsibility the council has for providing service [to] the council taxpayer that we should provide.”
Cllr Morgan said the council would “deliver all the statutory services that our residents need”.
Caerphilly’s “ambitious” approach was different from “many other councils [which] are talking about cutting services and making redundancies to deliver balanced budgets”, he added.
The leader’s comments came as councillors agreed the local authority’s General Fund should be maintained at the recommended 3% of its budget.
Eluned Stenner, the cabinet member for finance, said the move would shore up Caerphilly’s position given budgets were being “squeezed across all departments”.
Stephen Harris, the head of financial services, called the move a “positive approach”, adding that “many councils are under severe financial stress at the moment”.
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