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Budget set to invest millions in city communities

SWANSEA Council is set to invest millions of pounds more in social care, education and local communities as part of Budget proposals to be seen by Cabinet next week.

Swansea Council Logo (Landscape square)

Among proposals set to be seen by Cabinet next week is the creation of a clean-up team dedicated to tackling rubbish, weeds and overgrowth in community hotspots, increased spending on roads and the end of charging for some car parks in outlying areas.

On top of that schools are set to see an increase in funding of £9.7m - higher than the rate of inflation - with social care getting nearly £8m in funding.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: "The vast majority of people who've responded to our budget consultation this year have told us they want the council to prioritise education and social care.

"The proposals being considered by Cabinet do just that. But in addition the council is also creating new services and expanding others which make a difference to our communities every day.

"As part of the budget we intend to add more investment in the much-loved wildflowers planting scheme and expand our mechanical street cleaning services.

"We're looking to invest £500,000 in a new community clean-up team - a rapid response team dedicated to tidying up 'hot-spots' where there's rubbish, overgrowth and weeds.

"It'll be similar to and additional to the already very successful NEAT team who've gained such praise over the years for their work. There will also be a number of other specific investment announcements are expected in the coming weeks."

A budget report going to Cabinet next week identifies savings of £9.7m alongside an anticipated £17m uplift in grant funding from Welsh Government in the coming financial year.

Education will continue to take the lion's share of the budget - an increase of £9.7m to £181.9m. Social services will see an extra £7m, taking its budget up to £124.7m.

The report suggests a council tax rise of 4.58% or 92p a week for an average Band B property.

Cllr Stewart said: "The total amount raised by council tax is about the same as we spend on social services - caring for our vulnerable children and the elderly.

 "Every penny raised from the increase will go into education, into social services and into our communities.

"Families will see more invested in their children's futures through an increase in schools funding as well as more spent on social care for their relatives and friends. They will also see more money ploughed into their local communities, helping them to look brighter, cleaner, better looked-after and more welcoming."

If approved by Cabinet, the budget proposals will go to a meeting of full council on March 5.

Cllr Stewart said the £17m uplift in funding from Welsh Government was helping fund the increases in funding for council budgets in Swansea. But he warned that it would take many more years of similar increases to end the damage done by a decade of austerity.

He said: "Thanks to the most positive Budget settlement from the Welsh Government in a decade, we intend to invest millions of pounds more on the priorities of the people of Swansea next year."

But he added: "While the funding increase from the Welsh Government is very welcome it won't undo years of UK Government austerity. We are still funded at 2010 levels.

"We're going to need many more years of investment at this level if we are to get back to where we should always have been. As always we will try to minimise any impact on front line services and protect jobs."

He said: "We are already doing more with less because the council has become smarter, leaner and more efficient. We have reduced back-office spending, automated services and cut red tape and that has helped slash the cost of what we do by millions of pounds. By radically changing the way we work we have achieved savings of more than £70m in the last five years.

"If governments give is the same level of increased funding that they have this year then I can foresee the level of council tax rises reducing in future years.

"The more we get from government the less the council tax payer has to pay."

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