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Council budget position improves by £18m

Swansea Council's budget position for 2019/20 has improved by £18m compared to estimates set out at the beginning of the financial year.

Swansea Council Logo (Landscape square)

A report to Cabinet next week looking at how the council's £445m budget for 2019/20 fared, reveals a better than expected position in social services, and a careful used of the council's contingency fund amounting to just over £11m between them.

This has been boosted by a further £7m of capital financing savings as part of the medium term strategy to fund the overall capital programme and future borrowing.

Cllr Leader Rob Stewart said: "This demonstrates the planned and prudent approach managing the council's finances has been working and showed the council was not only be able to balance the books but invest in services in the coming years."

The report to Cabinet recommends that the £18m available is used to offset financial pressures on the council, assist with investment in services and help manage the impact of Coronavirus.

Cllr Stewart said: "The changes seen in services in the last few months have been the most dramatic, most remarkable and most community-focussed changes there's probably ever seen other than in wartime

"Despite the fact the Welsh Government is starting to ease lockdown, the virus is still very much with us and a second wave is possible. We have to acknowledge that it could be many months before we can safely say that it is dealt with.

"In the meantime we are helping protect thousands of elderly and vulnerable people still shielding from the virus. We are supporting foodbanks, cooking meals for those who can't do it for themselves, finding homes so no-one need be homeless during the pandemic.

"Hundreds of our staff are doing different jobs to the ones they've been used to, such as manning new call centres for the elderly, working in communities to support volunteers doing their bit for their neighbours.

"At the same time we've maintained critical services like kerbside recycling and waste services, we've filled in more than 880 potholes and we've continued to keep care homes open.

"We are gradually re-opening other services like public toilets, some library services and registrar services. We've also built a field hospital for Swansea Bay University Health Board which was fully funded short-term by the Council and is due to be repaid in full.

"So far this incredible effort has cost around £120m and that will increase over time. While we're expecting to get most of this back from Welsh Government, this year's additional balance is a very welcome safety net to help offset some of these unavoidable costs."

Cllr Stewart said the end of year position demonstrated that many commentators had been premature in their judgment of the council's financial position. Despite the challenges of a decade of austerity due to Westminster budget reductions for Wales and Swansea, the council was continuing to manage its resources effectively to invest in better services, protect jobs and serve communities.

The report to Cabinet shows that forecast savings requirements from departments were mostly achieved and overall significantly exceeded, demonstrating that resources were continuing to be effectively and efficiently directed to supporting frontline services.

Cllr Stewart said: "There is a long way to go before the pandemic is over. The economic and financial fall-out from Brexit as well as Coronavirus will present us with yet more challenges.

"But prudent financial management and the savings we've been able to carry over into the current financial year will help provide some cushion for what comes next."

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