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Budget priority for schools and front line services

Swansea Council is protecting key front line services and giving schools an extra £3.8m in direct funding as part of its budget proposals for next year.

Guildhall

A report going to Cabinet on December 14 says the council is yet to receive its final settlement from central government but it is clear there will be reduced real terms funding against a background of rising demand for services.

If the report is approved then the council will begin a consultation on its plans to target its resources towards what matters most to the public, services like education, social care and economic regeneration.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said: "Despite claims by the UK Government that austerity is at an end this is clearly not the case. We are going to have to find savings in the region of £24.5m in the next financial year and, if as expected current trends continue, almost £90m during the next four years.

"These are extremely challenging times for all councils in Wales but in Swansea our priority remains to deliver the frontline services that people value.

"Next year we will be investing £1.6m every day in services that make a real difference to people's lives. Services like safeguarding the vulnerable, tackling poverty and caring for our ageing population.

"We are also determined to continue to invest in transforming the city centre and in our school infrastructure including new school buildings."

Due to unfunded pay rises and increased pension contributions schools in Swansea are facing an increase in running costs of around £8m.

Swansea Council is proposing to increase its funding to schools by £3.8m which will fully cover the rise in teachers' pay.

But schools still face a significant gap as there is no funding for teachers pension increases unless the UK Government releases the necessary funds. This is an issue facing all schools across Wales.

Cllr Stewart added: "We will fully fund the rise in teachers pay, however our schools are still facing real terms budget cuts which can only be addressed if the UK government releases funds for the increase in pension contributions

"We have and will continue to make strong representations to government ministers urging them to properly fund this and I would urge teachers, governors and parents to also make their views known to government."

Despite the reductions in funding, the council will still be spending more than £100m next year on social services and will continue to focus on prevention and early intervention as well as respite and reablement so that Swansea's ageing population can continue to live independently as long as possible.

The amount Swansea collects in council tax is only the equivalent of its spending on social services.

No decision has yet been taken on the level of council tax for next year and this will form part of the consultation. But, as part of its funding settlement, Welsh Government has indicated it expects it to rise by 6.3% in Swansea.

Cllr Stewart said: "By 2021 Swansea and every council in Wales will have experienced a decade of budget real-terms reductions because the money being received from central government has been systematically cut back every single year.

"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.

"This becomes more difficult year on year and some very difficult choices about budgets will have to be made but we are determined to keep on delivering the vital frontline services that people in Swansea want."

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