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Council earmarks millions for local services

Swansea Council will help lead the way out of the pandemic over the coming months, backed by millions of pounds of investment in community services.

Swansea Bay view

The council has committed £20m from its end of year finances for a targeted recovery fund which was announced last month.

This will ensure significant cash is ploughed back into communities and businesses across Swansea to help them recover.

It is just part of a package that will see further investment in housing, social care and other vital services supporting communities and businesses.

A report to Cabinet next week shows that prudent financial management by Swansea Council and additional grants from Welsh Government has enabled the council to build strong foundations for local recovery as communities emerge from the pandemic.

As Wales moves into Alert Level 1, £39m is available at year end from council budget and is being directed to strengthen services over the coming months and years.

Schools have been able to temporarily add £13m to their reserves due to extra support from Welsh Government and the council which will assist school across Swansea to direct extra resources to support pupils in the coming months and years.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: "The council has continued to run services despite unprecedented pressures and challenges from the pandemic.

"We have supported communities and been there for the people of Swansea through the hardest times, building a hospital, supporting those shielding, keeping children learning remotely, and helping people get tested for the virus.

"We will continue to be side-by-side with our residents as we emerge from the pandemic by continuing to invest in our schools, care for the vulnerable and homeless and supporting local businesses to grow.

"Thanks to the backing of Welsh Government and strong financial management of our resources, we're well-placed to lead the recovery."

The annual revenue and capital outturn report to Cabinet on June 17 said that despite the pandemic the council had continued to support jobs with the biggest capital investment programme Swansea has ever seen.

More than £200m has been invested in new and better schools, new and improved homes, roads, the environment, and our towns and city centre including major new assets such as the Swansea Arena.

At the same time the council has helped provide local businesses with over £130m in grants and rates relief to help them get through the pandemic with rates relief extended for thousands of them till at least next March.

On top of all that, £20m of targeted support has been set aside for communities across Swansea from this year - ranging new play areas in parks, free use of parks and play spaces, more and bigger bins and extra spending to tackle litter and potholes to funding to help improve local shops up community commercial areas.

Cllr Stewart said: "The past year has been one of unprecedented challenge and change. The effort put in by all areas of the council, by health and other public services, businesses and communities to protect and save lives has been incredible.

"Over the last year we have seen the very best of the people of Swansea, helping one another, checking up on neighbours' wellbeing and supporting community initiatives like food banks and free hot-meal deliveries.

"Now we're emerging from such difficult times, we want to reassure residents the council will continue to support them in the challenges ahead."

As part of the end of year accounting process, the council has also committed around £6.4m to fully-fund new digital connectivity in city schools for the next decade.

The out-turn report also provides for stronger resilience and future cover for repayment of large capital schemes.

This includes a slight increase in general reserves to £10m, raising the  Contingency Fund by £6.8m to assist with one off costs, adding £5m to our adult social care reserves to be able to respond to new care pressures and increasing the Capital Equalisation Reserve by almost £9.5m to ensure future repayments on capital investments are fully covered without a direct cost to the Swansea taxpayer.

This will provide specific support help bolster the most vital services, manage increased demand and the continued potential spill-over effects of Covid-19 expected in future years.

Cllr Stewart said: "Having money in earmarked reserves helps deliver on our promise to ensure council tax is not raised to pay for capital schemes like the Arena, and that council tax resources raised locally continue to be entirely directed at key services like education and social care."

He added: "Through the Recovery Fund we're aiming to ensure no vulnerable person or family nor any community is left behind. We already frozen the cost of school meals, made the use of parks and play for hundreds of local sports clubs and teams free. We are offering grants to businesses to spruce-up shop-fronts and will be announcing further help for communities shortly.

 "The virus is very much still with us and we all have to follow the rules until restrictions can be fully removed. But there is significant light at the end of the tunnel and now is the time to launch the recovery efforts and the council will be there to help our local businesses and communities lead the way."

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