Cardiff Council's Budget proposals passed as authority looks to bridge £30.3m gap


A budget which safeguards schools and education, supports social services, and protects the most vulnerable - has been passed by Cardiff Council - as it faces up to a ‘public sector funding crisis' affecting local authorities across the UK.

Rising costs and demand for services like social care left the council with ‘extremely difficult decisions to make' to bridge a £30.3m gap in its budget.

Earlier in the year the council consulted citywide with residents who were asked for their views on several cost-saving proposals and money-generating ideas.

More than 9,000 people - a record amount - took part in the four-week consultation on the difficult choices ahead.

Now, following that consultation, the council has agreed its budget for 2024/25 one which will safeguard key services while bridging the budget gap.

Council has now set a Council Tax increase of 6% - around £1.60 a week for a Band D household. This is among the lowest council tax increases seen in Wales this year and will play a key part in maintaining some of the services residents asked to be protected or saved from cuts, and includes:

Giving schools a 4.3% uplift of £12.8m a year to help deal with rising costs matching Welsh Government's funding increase to the council and removing any budget requirement for efficiency savings. Adults and Childrens Social Services will also receive an extra £26.3m in the coming financial year.

Other key measures include:

  • No cuts to youth services
  • Spending £6.7m on the city's parks, improving and protecting our Green Flag parks
  • Spending £7.1m on highways repairs
  • £308m for school delegated budgets next year

Some services will see increased charges, including:

  • Increasing the cost of hiring sports pitches - 10% increase
  • Increasing the price of burials (+10.6%) and the cremation service (+6.1%)
  • Increasing the cost of school meals by 10p, although this service will continue to be subsidised
  • Increasing some parking charges

Several factors including inflation, energy prices, demand pressures, and expected pay increases for teachers, carers, and other public sector workers, mean the council's budget for delivering day-to-day services like education, social care, refuse collection, parks and libraries is set to cost over £57m more in the next financial year (April 2024-March 2025) than it has this year.

Welsh Government's 4.3% grant uplift for Cardiff - less than half of what the council received in the current financial year, will bring in an additional £27m, which left the council with £30.3m to find.

Around 160 jobs at the council are expected to go - many through non-replacement of vacancies.

Cardiff Council agreed the budget at last night's (Thursday March 7) full council meeting. 

You can view the full budget report  here.

In the consultation residents were told two thirds (66.4%) of the council's £804m annual budget was spent on schools and social services. Leaving just £176m to pay for other services like recycling and waste collections, highways, street lighting, libraries and hubs, and economic regeneration. Around £57m of the budget goes towards the council tax reduction scheme, rates relief and other levies paid to organisations such as the fire service; while £37m is set aside for capital finance to repay interest on projects like new schools and the Cardiff Arena, which is designed to payback in full over its lease period.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: "We are facing some really difficult decisions. Real-term cuts to funding over the past 14 years, inflation, and increasing demand pressures from children's care, care for the elderly, and homelessness - especially in major cities like Cardiff - are driving up costs for councils everywhere.

"This picture is being seen across the UK - in England the picture is even worse than it is in Wales. I believe an honest conversation needs to be had with government about the true value of the public sector and local government to the people and communities we serve. If local government continues to be cut in this relentless fashion, then we will be caught in this spin-cycle until we are wrung out."

Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, Cllr Chris Weaver, added: "At the outset of the consultation I said we were facing a public sector funding crisis and that it was important that residents shared their views with us on the budget proposals. The fact that a record number of people took part in the consultation shows that our residents are concerned about these relentless cuts to the services they rely on and the damage that is being done to the public sector, not just here, but across Wales and the rest of the UK.

"Without raising council tax, we just wouldn't be able to safeguard some of the services that are important to our residents. This increase will be among the lowest in Wales, but it will bring in an extra £10.4m and will help us maintain the services our citizens have come to rely on. Equally importantly, anyone who is struggling to pay and is eligible will be able to access support through the Council Tax reduction scheme.

"Of course, this rise in council tax doesn't mean we won't have to make savings. In the next financial year, we will make £15.8m in back-office savings and other corporate measures, along with the £4.1m of frontline service savings based on the consultation. These savings come on top of the £250m we have cut from our budget over the past 10 years.

"Unfortunately, around 160 posts will be lost across the council. Last year around 172 roles were lost. We will always seek to make savings from efficiencies and changing the way we work ahead of changing frontline services, but the scale of the cut to our budget is too great to avoid some changes this year.

"I want residents to know we have listened to their views, we are bringing forward a budget which will safeguard the services that mean the most to them - education, safeguarding the vulnerable, and social care.

"In England we have seen Council's essentially going bust, and many more warning they are close to doing so.  The public sector funding crisis is real, and it is damaging.

"In this context, our budget must not only meet the ambitions of the people of this city, but must be robust, prudent, and prepare for the long term. 

"It would be irresponsible to make short-term, unfunded, and unsustainable decisions today.

"Our 6% Council Tax increase is one of the lowest increases in Wales, and will leave our Band D Council Tax below the average of many authorities across the UK, but crucially raises more than £10 million to fund our services.  It is the right level to sustain our Council over the difficult years ahead - as low as we can afford, as high as we need. 

"The number one public priority, and that of this administration, are children and young people. 

"I am pleased that we have not proposed making any savings from schools budgets, and are able to put forward a £12.8 million cash increase to schools, and over £4 million extra to central education budgets, and a £10.8 million increase to Childrens Services.

"We also protected Youth Services - proposing no cut to their budget at all.

"These are our values, protecting these critical services as best we can.

"Whilst we know that nationally and here in Cardiff, schools are facing serious increases in costs and demand, at a time of falling birth-rates, and therefore the situation is challenging, we are doing what we can, given our funding, to protect the future generations of our city.

"I am also pleased that we have proposed not to take forward difficult savings on street cleansing and the provision of public bins, and that we could reduce savings on important services like the Local Action Teams - which Labour introduced a few years ago.

"Similarly, we listened to the consultation and so our proposal is to reduce opening hours in many of our hubs and libraries, but not reduce the days they open.  This was the most popular of the proposals we consulted on, and balances the need to make savings with our ambition to protect our hubs and libraries through these hard times." 

Proposals to move to three-weekly waste collections for black bin/bag waste are planned to come into place later in the year. Welsh Government's preference is for three-weekly collections of this type of waste to improve recycling rates. If Cardiff fails to improve its recycling rate it could face a multi-million pounds Welsh Government fine. No final decision on Garden Waste charges has been made so these collections will remain free when they start again in the spring. A decision on whether charges will need to be introduced in future will be made later this year.

As part of the Budget the Council will be reaffirming its commitment to its 2023/24 -2027/28, 5-year Capital spend programme. This programme is designed to create jobs, build more council homes, and improve public transport options alongside a raft of other measures to improve the city.

It includes the following:

  • £716.3m investment in social housing including new council homes
  • £234m on new school builds
  • £129.8m to develop Cardiff Cross Rail, cycle routes, improve transport infrastructure, encourage active travel and sustainability, subject to grant funding
  • £41m investment in existing schools infrastructure
  • £32.7m investment in Highway infrastructure
  • £215.5mon economic development initiatives, including the international sports village and new Indoor Arena (which is primarily developer funded)
  • £47.3m for disabled adaptations to help people continue to live in their own homes
  • £34.9m to address flooding and coastal erosion
  • £19.9m investment in parks, playgrounds, open space & harbour infrastructure
  • £14.2m to support waste collection and recycling activity
  • £20.7m for neighbourhood improvements
  • £4.6m investment in leisure centres
  • £4.8m investment in Right Homes Right Support Strategy for children, children's respite provision and gateway accommodation for young people

More than 9,000 residents - a record number - took part in Cardiff Council's budget consultation.

Their views helped shape the budget for 2024/25, including:

  • 81.6% agreed with closing the museum of Cardiff on one day a week
  • 81% agreed with the asset transfer of pitches and changing facilities
  • 78.1% supported finding partners to support Bute Park Nursery and Roath park Conservatory
  • 76.7% agreed with finding an alternative operator for Cardiff Riding School
  • 76.2% agreed with phasing the increased hourly charge for home care services
  • 69.3% agreed with removing hard copies of newspapers, magazines and journals
  • 67.7% agreed with prioritising school budgets
  • 67.1% agreed with charging for all bulky waste collections
  • 66.3% agreed with an increase in burial and cremation fees
  • 63.8% agreed with applying the Welsh Government cap for charges for home care services
  • 61.8% agreed with increasing fees for adults hiring sports pitches and changing facilities
  • 56.6% agreed with increasing the number of volunteers in Hubs and Libraries
  • 50.7% wanted bins to remain in residential areas.

Following consultation with residents some amendments to savings proposals were made, including but not limited to:

  • Raising Council Tax by 6% to help pay for services residents want
  • Street cleansing will be protected and bins in residential areas will be retained
  • The cost of hiring sports pitches to increase by 10% rather than 30%
  • Hubs/Libraries - hours to be reduced rather than closed for a day a week
  • Community Park Rangers - to be reduced by 2 full time employees rather than 4. This will see the service have three more rangers than it had five years ago
  • Increased fees for out of hours burial - to be set at 10% rather than full cost recovery
  • Limited cuts to Local Action Teams which help improve our housing estates environment - prioritising areas of need
  • Increasing school meals by 10p rather than 30p

You can read more on how the Council budget works and why there is a budget gap  here.