Everything you need to know about Cardiff council’s latest budget
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
An increase in council tax, and millions of pounds of investment in schools and youth services have been announced for Cardiff.
Each year Cardiff council sets a budget from April to March setting out hundreds of millions of pounds of spending on local public services.
From April, council tax is expected to increase by 1.9 per cent of homes across the city, while some key policies will see millions in extra investment.
Here’s everything you need to know about Cardiff’s latest budget, including the strain of coronavirus on the council’s finances.
Over the past two years the Welsh Government has provided a hardship fund for local councils to cover extra costs and lost income due to the pandemic. But from April this fund will be scrapped and councils are expected to cover any Covid costs themselves. Since April 2020, Cardiff has spent an extra £68.9 million on Covid and lost £51.1 million in income.
These costs include protective equipment, emergency accommodation for homeless people, and providing food for children on free school meals while schools were closed. Lost income includes cultural and sporting venues being closed, as well as fewer parking tickets. For the upcoming financial year, the council has put aside £10 million for any new Covid spending.
As well as Covid, the council has put aside £6 million to cover increasing salaries and national insurance costs, £10.7 million for price inflation, £8.3 million for extra demand for social services, and £5.5 million to invest in key policies like action on climate change.
This extra money for investing in key policies includes £1 million on repairing roads and pavements; £219,000 on hiring staff to design cycleways and bus corridors; £103,000 on hiring staff to get more pupils walking and cycling to school; and £500,000 for upgrading youth services and hiring outreach workers.
The council is budgeting £744 million for day-to-day spending from April until next March. £545 million will come from Welsh Government grants, and £199 million from council tax. Increasing council tax by 1.9 per cent will raise an extra £3.1 million income for the budget. Savings from the budget are targeted at £7.7 million, mostly from reducing external spend.
Some fees and charges are also set to increase, as part of the budget proposals. These include increases in the cost of hiring rooms and halls at Cardiff Castle, City Hall and Mansion House; sports pitches; some fees at Cardiff Riding School and the Sailing Centre; costs for businesses to use the commercial recycling centre; and renting gypsy pitches.
One service seeing an increase in fees is bereavement and marriage registrations. The cost of cremations will go up from £740 to £780; burials from £855 to £880; graves from £970 to £1,000; and purchasing cremated remains from £430 to £450. The cost of registrations will increase by about five per cent, with different prices depending on venues and days.
As well as day-to-day spending, council budgets focus on longer term investments, known as capital spending. Next year’s capital spending plans include millions on new school buildings, reopening the canal under Churchill Way, upgrading coastal defences at the Rhymney River, building new council housing, and installing new cycling lanes.
To fund these capital investments, the council is planning to increase how much money it is borrowing. Council debt last year stood at £841 million, and this is expected to gradually increase to £1.4 billion by 2026.
The council’s cabinet is expected to approve the budget proposals on February 24, before they are voted on by all councillors on March 3. The new council tax rate and higher fees will take effect from April, at the start of the financial year.
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