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Council budget sees extra £4m for schools and extra £430,000 for home care services

a pot of pencils

SCHOOLS in Torfaen will receive more than £4 million in additional funding in the coming financial year under plans set to be approved by councillors.

Torfaen Borough Council will be asked to approve the budget agreed by the cabinet which includes a 1.95% council tax rise.

Last November the council feared having to make wide-ranging cuts and that it could face a £12 million shortfall in funding from April. But a better-than-expected financial settlement from the Welsh Government meant it could produce a balanced budget with “minimal” service changes.

The council’s Labour cabinet agreed its budget plans earlier this month and will present them, and the council tax rise, to the full council for approval on Tuesday, February 28 when it meets at the Civic Centre, Pontypool. As Labour holds all but 10 seats on the council the budget is expected to be passed.

However, councillors will be warned that the authority faces £27.2 million worth of funding pressures due to rising prices and increased demand, over the next four years and is already working on addressing these.

That includes an assessment of its staffing needs, which is due to be considered in April, and the council will also examine how many buildings it requires which is being looked at as part of its Project Appolo to address the £27.2 million funding gap.

This year the council intends providing schools with an additional £4.3 million, including extra funding for increased additional learning needs demand, and one-off support of £600,000 to deal with energy costs.

However delays to the extension of Crownbridge Special School in Cwmbran, which isn’t now expected to open until September 2024, could require extra funding if pupils require support out of the county.

The council is also making funding available so that care workers are paid what’s called the real living wage, which is £10.90 an hour – 48 pence more an hour than what the legal minimum rate for those aged 23 and over will be from April.

It is also putting an extra £430,000 towards domiciliary care and supported living and maintaining current service levels for 836 people reliant on adult social care.

A total of £8.5 million will also be put aside to cover pay rises that could be imposed on the council.
In children’s social care, funding to recruit more foster carers will be cut back but though this could mean more children having to be placed in more expensive “out of county” placements the council still hopes to recruit more foster carers.

The adoptions budget is also being reduced, from eight placements to four, in line with the number of placements required this year. But additional adoptions wouldn’t be prevented and the council says this would be off-set by reduced fostering costs.

A budget for children’s legal fees, for those subject to family proceedings, will also reduce by £50,000, but demand will be monitored and budgets rejigged if required.

A review of how and when council workers are able to take work vehicles home will also be held which the council says will impact those having to make their own way into work, but a consultation in line with its human resources policies will be held.

Funding is being maintained for a school leaver employment scheme, a project to support foodbanks and £390,000 will help the waste service deal with inflation.

That is on top of the £324,000 used to continue to provide separate cardboard collections as the council is unable to make combined recycling and food waste collections using its new fleet of 19 vehicles – which it paid £2.7 million for.

The council is also using reserves to support its Greenmeadow Community Farm during its redevelopment.

The council held public consultations on what its spending priorities should be during the autumn and met with over 50s groups across the borough.

A report to the council states: “Looking at the range of proposals across the council service areas these can be viewed to be predominantly neutral in terms of the potential effect on groups according to their protected characteristics. Reassuringly, there are some anticipated positive impacts as well as negative impacts.”

Photo credit

Photo by Anton Sukhinov on Unsplash

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Council budget sees extra £4m for schools and extra £430,000 for home care services