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Council funding rise opportunity for long-term progress, Torfaen leader

The Civic Centre in Pontypool
Torfaen Council's Civic Centre

AN INCREASE in funding from the Welsh Government will provide local authorities with an opportunity to improve services for the long-term, the leader of Torfaen council has said.

Torfaen council has received a 9.3 per cent uplift in funding, equating to £13.5 million, for the upcoming financial year in the provisional Welsh Government settlement.

The better-than-expected increase means the council is now forecasting a positive position of £8.2 million for the next financial year, a swing of £9.7 million from a previous projection, which predicted a budget gap of £1.5 million.

Councillors will draw up plans on how to use the extra funding before the final budget for next year is set in March.

At a Torfaen council cabinet meeting on Tuesday, council leader Cllr Anthony Hunt said the settlement would provide an opportunity to plan long-term and to make investments in areas such as preventative and early intervention services.

“I think if we use this good settlement right, we can make real progress on those things,” he said.

“Whereas if we try to take the quick wins out of this and make short-term decisions I do not think we will be able to make such progress for the long-term.”

Cllr Hunt also said the council would try to keep council tax “as low as possible” in recognition of rising living costs.

‘The scars that will remain’

But he added the council will need to bear in mind “the scars that will remain” on services from the pandemic and a decade of austerity.

Councils in Wales have been awarded an average 9.4 per cent rise in funding in the provisional settlement.

However it is expected they will need to fund any future Covid-19 related costs, with the hardship fund provided by Welsh Government expected to end next year.

The settlement is also expected to cover the cost of the introduction of the real living wage in the care sector, and any future pay increases.

‘An exceptionally good settlement’

Nigel Aurelius, Torfaen council’s assistant chief executive for resources, said it is “an exceptionally good settlement”.

“There is a real opportunity, I think, for local authorities to strengthen their resilience and secure the future of local services going forward in light of this settlement,” he said.

Cllr David Daniels, executive member for adult services and housing, said the funding is also an ‘opportunity’ to help tackle challenges in adult social care.

“Obviously finance is not the be-all and end-all of everything in this situation, but it is a significant lever that we can exercise,” he said.

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Council funding rise opportunity for long-term progress, Torfaen leader