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Education, social services and highways come first in council spending plans

EDUCATION and social services will come first in Swansea Council's plans for funding its budget over the coming year.

Guildhall

Full Council last night accepted proposals that will see more than £7m extra ploughed into education and social care as part of a programme of a £400m investment in services in 2018/19.

Education and schools will get an extra £4.5m with a further £2.7m for hard-pressed social care services. There will also be more than £200m of capital funding for a new generation of modern schools, to build new council homes and upgrade hundreds more.

As part of the investment schools in Swansea are also to receive an extra £1m for minor repairs and improvements as part of a one-off extra grant from the Welsh Government announced on Tuesday.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council said: "Despite the continuing reductions in our budgets, the council remains committed to prioritising the services that matter most to the people of Swansea. We continue to try and do more with less'

"That's why every penny of the £4.9m we expect to raise through an increase in council tax this year will to go towards bolstering Schools and Social services. This equates to around 90p per week on a band B council tax bill."

He added: "While austerity is biting into our budgets, the council is still spending more year-on-year on education and social services. I'm pleased to say the extra £1m allocated to Swansea by the Welsh Government will be passed on to schools in full.

"They will be able to spend it on commissioning small-scale repairs and improvements to things like school toilets or to meet cleaning and caretaking costs."

Among other key decisions taken at the Budget meeting:

  • There will be around £150m earmarked for more 21st century schools
  • More than £57m will be spent on new council housing and a council house kitchen and bathroom replacement programme designed to bring them up to the Wales Housing Quality Standard - paid for from rents, not council tax. This is part of the £167m capital programme for the coming year
  • £33m extra in capital funding to help improve and maintain Swansea's roads and traffic routes
  • £6m for a new fleet of waste collection vehicles

Cllr Stewart said: "Nobody should be in any doubt about the challenges we and all councils face. The Government's austerity programme shows no signs of ending, meaning the services people rely on everyday will continue to face huge pressures."

The Council's savings target for the next financial year is £28m due to spending pressures like the loss of specific grants, additional costs for residential care and the anticipated 2% plus pay award for staff - which the Council supports but has had no new money to fund .

Cllr Stewart said: "Unless austerity ends, allowing the Welsh Government to fund education and social care on the same basis as health, then in the coming years we could have to save another £70m, but as we have done in previous years we will continue to work hard to meet these challenges and keep services running'

During the consultation period the council received more than 1,000 responses and petitions about its proposals. The council also staged a consultation session with 80 pupils from city schools to get their views on a range of issues.

Among savings proposals and income opportunities identified are:

  • £400,000 in extra rent, including rent from the Liberty Stadium
  • Staff savings of £200,000 due to mobile working
  • £1.1m increase in commercial income
  • £1.5m in savings from corporate services management review
  • £120,000 savings in council vehicle fleet management
  • £250,000 in senior staff savings in 'Place' directorate

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