Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet is gearing up to finalise its budget proposals for the upcoming financial year during its meeting on March 1. This comes after an engagement exercise held throughout January, where councillors, residents, and various organisations were given the chance to voice their opinions on the draft proposals.

Following an open and thorough debate, the majority of people who offered their views recognised the difficult financial situation and the challenging medium-term outlook. The council had to manage a £26 million financial gap, which it did through a combination of service savings, income increases, Council tax rises (5.95 per cent), and one-off use of reserves. The council recognises the challenges posed by public sector pay awards, energy and commodity prices, and the significant increase in demand for social care and homelessness services.

The Cabinet has taken into account key concerns raised during the engagement exercise and has recommended several changes to its budget proposals. These include delaying £1 million of savings in adult social care until 2024/25, limiting the fee increase for before school clubs to only the first child, and removing proposed increases in the concessionary fee for home to school transport, subscription fee for the Grass Routes Bus Service, licence fees for pavement cafes, and proposed reductions in opening hours for leisure centres during the summer months.

Additionally, the opening hours of community hubs across the county will not be reduced, a proposed saving to delete a post in the internal audit team will be removed, and an additional £2 million will be invested in pothole repairs to roads, £0.5 million per annum in each of the next four years. An additional £50,000 will also be allocated for surveys and assessments of bridges across the public rights of way network.

Councillor Rachel Garrick, Cabinet Member for Resources, acknowledged the difficulty of the budget process and emphasised the importance of a balanced set of proposals that consider the impact on all residents. The final budget will be considered by Cabinet on March 1 and will be subject to full Council consideration on March 2. While the proposed Council Tax increase of 5.95% per cent is significantly below inflation, Garrick recognizes that it will be a challenge for some residents and assures that discount entitlements will be provided.