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Record investment in council services next year

Swansea Council is set to invest millions of pounds more in services that affect our communities every day as they emerge from the Covid-19 crisis.

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Swansea is set to get an extra £34m in funding from the Welsh Government next year. In the next four years it's anticipated a total of around £100m will be invested in council services that make a difference in people's lives every day.

A budget report to the council's Cabinet on January 20 says investment across the board is expected to rise by at least 7% next year, with some services like education and social care getting even more.

On top of that the council's economic recovery fund is set to rise from £20m to £25m to give more backing for businesses and families facing an energy and cost of living crisis in the wake of the pandemic.

The report adds that compulsory redundancies are not expected this year thanks to efforts made by the council to protect jobs and services.

The council's continuing investment in new school facilities - already worth £150m - will see new primary schools open in the coming months as well as an upgrade for YG Gwyr completed.

As well as that the much-anticipated Swansea Arena is due to welcome its first gigs, providing a multi-million pound boost for years to come in the city centre and local economy.

But while the Welsh Government's boost has been welcomed by Swansea Council Leader Rob Stewart, he warned that it would take many more years of similar increases to end the damage done by a decade of UK government austerity and recover fully from the pandemic.

He said: "Despite the pandemic, we're investing record amounts in front-line services and the recovery. We'll soon be seeing Swansea Arena opening, extra schools' investment and completion of the Wales Housing Quality Standard project that's been worth hundreds of millions of pounds and transformed thousands of family homes for our tenants.

"We have seen very tough times for businesses and communities in the past two years. As a council we are very mindful of a crisis for families dealing with rising energy bills and the cost of living that will squeeze incomes and lead to more uncertainty.

"It's our intention to look for innovative ways to help families who are faced with being worse off due to an energy and cost of living crisis.

"We're planning to boost our £20m Economic Recovery Fund by £5m to £25m so we can increase investment in visible services people see every day ranging from fixing potholes to tackling littering, graffiti, weeds and those community problems that residents want to see sorted.

"There will also be further additional support and funding for education and social care which have borne many of the stresses of Covid-19."

The Council's Cabinet is due to see the draft budget report at its meeting on January 20. Public consultation will follow and feedback will be taken into account by Cabinet on February 18 ahead of a finalised budget being offered to Full Council on March 3.

No decision has yet been taken on the level of council tax for next year and this will form part of the consultation. However, the amount Swansea collects in council tax is only broadly the equivalent of its spending on social services.

Cllr Stewart said: "Next year we will be investing an average £1.8m every day in services that make a real difference to people's lives."