Agenda item



[NOTE: Councillor D. Phillips declared an interest in Appendix ‘C’ to the report (Charging Digest) did not speak or vote on that Appendix].


The Committee considered the report presented by the Cabinet Member for Resources on the Council’s Revenue Budget Strategy 2022/23 to 2024/25, as endorsed by the Cabinet for consultation purposes at its meeting held on the 17th January 2022.  The report provided Members with the current view of the Revenue Budget for 2022/2023 together with indicative figures for the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 financial years based on officers’ projections of spending requirements and taken account of the provisional settlement issued by Welsh Government on the 21st December 2021.  It also reflected current departmental submissions for savings proposals after taking account of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the delivery of those savings.


The Cabinet Member advised that the provisional settlement from Welsh Government this year was considerably higher than what was planned for, however he also highlighted that the scale of expenditure pressures that this Authority and other Local Authorities were facing was also at an unprecedented high level, which offset the higher settlement. The provisional settlement represented an average increase of 9.4% across Wales on the 2021/22 settlement.  Carmarthenshire’s settlement figures saw an increase of 9.2% (£26.335m) thereby taking the Aggregate External Finance to £311.957m for 2022/23 which included £302k in respect of the Social Care Workforce Grant.


Across the whole of the council’s budgets, validation added £23m, by some margin the highest we have needed to allow for in recent years. 


The budget also included £12.5m. for new departmental expenditure pressures which have been identified by departments and were inescapable if we are to continue to deliver our main services at the current level.  As with the inflationary uplift, this was considerably more than the norm and reflected the scale of pressures on the current Council’s services.


In respect of the savings proposals (Appendix Aii), the Cabinet Member explained that the continued response to the pandemic had further impacted on the delivery of efficiencies. 


Nevertheless, it was highlighted that the Councils budget strategy had put forward some £3.8m of savings next year and a further £7.9m over the following 2 years. 

In relation to this committee’s remit, the current proposals totalled some £886k in year 1 and a further £1.6m over the following 2 years. 


The Budget Strategy proposed a Council Tax of 4.39% for 2022/23, in line with the Medium-Term Financial Plan, and that proposal would be considered as part of the budget finalisation process over the next month and where the Authority received further clarification on cost and grant funding with a view to limiting the Council Tax increase as far as possible. Final budget proposals would then be presented to the Cabinet late February, to ensure a balanced budget was presented to County Council.


The Committee thereupon considered the following detailed budget information appended to the Strategy relevant to its remit:


·     Appendix A(i) – Efficiency summary for the Environment and Public Protection Services

·     Appendix A(ii) – Growth Pressures summary for the Environment and Public Protection Services

·     Appendix B – Budget monitoring report for the Environment and Public Protection Services

·     Appendix C – Charging Digest for the Environment and Public Protection Services

The following questions/issues were raised on the report:-


·       The following queries and concerns were raised in regard to car parking charges and the proposal to introduce charges to additional car parks as cited on Appendix Aii of the report:-


-       It was asked which ‘additional carparks’ had been identified, where were they located, what the process to introduce the charges would be and would Members be made aware?


-       It was asked consideration had been given to the reasons why the car parks were currently free to use?


-       A concern was raised in regard to the overall increase of car parking charges and the potential impact on the smaller towns and businesses therein.


The Head of Highway and Transportation, in response stated that the proposal to introduce charges to additional carparks would involve the following carparks, which were currently free to use:-


§  Dafen Steele, Llanelli

§  Llanybydder

§  Station Car Park and Sea View Terrace, Burry Port

§  Glan-yr-Afon and Station Road Car Parks, Kidwelly

§  Llansteffan

§  Eva Terrace, Ferryside


In terms of the due process, it was explained that subject to the approval of the budget strategy, to enable the charges to be applied a lengthy statutory process for the creation of a Traffic Regulation Order would take place.  As part of this process the proposed Traffic Regulation Order which would be subject to a formal stakeholder consultation and public notices.


The Head of Highway and Transportation confirmed that the reasons behind the current use of free car parks had been explored and was factored into the current proposal.


In relation to the general increase in car park charges, the Head of Waste and Environmental Services highlighted that as stated in the report, the increase was planned for April 2020 but was put into effect in January 2021 and that there was no proposal within this budget strategy to further increase the charges.


Contrary to the concerns regarding the increase in car park charges, a comment was raised that whilst any increase in charges was controversial in its nature, it was highlighted that there were also many members of the public who do not own vehicles, of which would not be affected by the increase in charges but would be affected by any increase in Council Tax.


It was raised that the carpark charges within the town of Carmarthen were substantially higher than those within Ammanford and Llanelli, in the interest of fairness, it was asked if a review of the carpark charges across Carmarthenshire could be undertaken with a view to be consistent.  The Head of Waste and Environmental Services stated that the comment would be considered, however the variance in terms of the location and usage would be a factor in the different charging rate.  In addition, Members were informed that the charges were an important income stream to enable necessary maintenance on the carparks to be undertaken.


Further comments were raised regarding the economic situation and footfall which differed between Ammanford, Llanelli and Carmarthen and the reason why the carpark changes within Ammanford and Llandeilo was at a lower rate due to the economic position.  Concern was raised that an increase in carpark charges would have a detrimental impact on the smaller towns and its businesses. 


·       A concern was raised in relation to the lack of maintenance and aesthetic care of the infrastructure and fixtures within Ammanford and the need for a plan to manage this was called for.  In response, the Head of Waste and Environmental Services explained that the budget strategy had included the financial position and the proposals for members consideration and unfortunately this area of maintenance was no longer available.


·       In reference to Road Safety Innovation, clarification was sought how income and sponsorship would be obtained.  The Head of Highways and Transportation explained that in exploring how additional income could be obtained, the team had discovered examples across the Country where road safety activities had attracted sponsorship.  It was identified that there was a potential opportunity to achieve a modest income by utilising services such as school crossing patrols and training.


·       Reference was made to the proposal in relation to Highways - ‘subject to the financial position remaining unchanged the service will be forced to further reduce the level of general maintenance work’ as stated in Appendix Aii of the report. In acknowledging that the condition of the highways was currently dependant on the continued significant investment bids, strong concern was expressed that further budget reductions would be detrimental to the road conditions within Carmarthenshire.  Following the general consensus of the Committee to protect the maintenance and improve the conditions of the County’s highways, it was therefore recommended to place the allocated sum of £757k within highways budget.


·       Information was sought in respect of the School Crossing Patrol vacancies and the timescales. The Head of Highways and Transportation reported that the explained that whilst a continuous recruitment process for School Crossing Patrols was in effect, there had been some difficulties in filling vacancies on some sites.  In the interim, the team were working with the Community to assist in the provision of school crossing.


·       In response to a query raised regarding the vacant post within the Public Rights of Way section, the Head of Highways and Transportation reported that the first round of the recruitment process had been completed and would be appointing shortly.


·       Reference was made to the Traffic Management section of the Charging Digest, Appendix C.  It was asked if the 2% price increase in line with inflation could be further increased?  The Cabinet Member for Resources explained that as stated within the report, the charging would be minimised to 2.5% in respect of the burden on household budgets.  It was further commented that an increase within the Traffic Management section would not have a direct impact on households.  In acknowledging that income was an important and necessary stream, the comment on the percentage price increase was echoed and supported as long as it does not directly impact on households.


In addition, it was asked if inflation would be added to the charges that had not increased?  The Cabinet Member for Resources stated that it would be prudent to undertake a review of all charges that does not directly impact on ratepayers.


·       Reference was made to fixed penalty notices and their charges.  It was commented that clean-up operations attributed to clearing up dog faeces and litter were costly and fixed penalty charges, whilst contributing towards these costs were also a form of punishment for irresponsible behaviour therefore, it was asked if the fixed penalty charges could be increased?  The Head of Waste and Environmental Services explained that the Council, in setting the charges were governed by legislation and the charges seen within the digest were set towards the upper limit and that any further increase would fall outside of the legislation.  A further increase to reach the absolute maximum could be achieved in the future in consultation with the relevant Cabinet Member.  It was strongly expressed that a review take place on all fixed penalty notice charges and ensure that they are set to the maximum limit of the legislation as soon as practically possible.


RESOLVED subject to the Committee’s comments being considered as part of the consultation that:-



the 2022/23 – 2024/25 Revenue Budget Strategy Consultation be received;



the Charging Digests for the Environmental and Public Protection, as detailed in Appendix C to the report, be endorsed.


Supporting documents: