Savings Plan to safeguard Cyngor Gwynedd's key services
On 14 February, Cyngor Gwynedd’s Cabinet will consider a series of efficiency savings worth £6.4 million, which will help shield local services from cuts during 2023/24.
To lessen the impact on services as much as possible, the Council has identified a number of new and more efficient ways of providing them.
Like all other councils across the country, Cyngor Gwynedd is facing unprecedented financial pressure on its budgets due to national and international factors. The price of everything needed to provide services – such as energy, goods and staff – has increased by 11% since the autumn, which is costing the Council an additional £22 million.
Simultaneously, demand for services such as homelessness has shot up due to the cost of living crisis.
Although Cyngor Gwynedd will receive £14 million extra funding for 2023/24 from the Welsh Government, this settlement is among the worst in real terms the organisation has ever received and is nowhere near enough to meet the additional costs. Unless changes are made on a national level, this squeeze is not expected to ease for some time – the Council’s deficit this year is £7 million and faces a further funding gap of up to £12.4 million between 2023/24 and 2024/25.
The Leader of Cyngor Gwynedd, Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, said: "Just like other local authorities across the country, we are having to cope with a completely unprecedented situation due to nation-wide factors and the decisions of the Westminster Government.
"But unlike past crises, this 'perfect storm' has hit us over a period of months rather than years meaning that we haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to prepare and have had to move extremely quickly.
"Of course, our priority is always to protect services and to shield the people of Gwynedd from the impact of any cuts. Therefore, since the situation started to become clear in November, officers all Council services have been going through our budgets with a fine-tooth comb to identify plans which can bridge the gap.
"Given that Cyngor Gwynedd has already made £33.5 million of in savings over the last eight years, this has been an extremely challenging task.
"However, we have managed to identify £6.4million of potential efficiency savings to be implemented from 2023/24 onwards. These are new or different ways of working which cost less and will enable us to avoid painful cuts to frontline services for the time being.
"Even then, the unprecedented size of the financial gap and our legal requirement as a Council to set a balanced budget means that the Full Council will unfortunately have no choice but to consider increasing the Council Tax on 2 March."
The outlook and likely service pressures in the medium term means that it is unlikely that the financial situation will improve for several years.
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn added: "As soon as we agree on a budget, efficiency savings and Council Tax rates for 2023/24 we will get on to plans to save up to £2.2million in 2024/25.
"While careful financial planning and our officers’ efforts mean that Cyngor Gwynedd is in a better position than many other councils to cope, there is a limit to what we can do without having a real impact on the public. Because of this, unfortunately, there will be little choice but to consider cutting some of our services from 2024/25 onwards."
Reports on the Council’s Financial Strategy and Budget will be presented to the Governance and Audit Committee on 9 February. Savings will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on 14 February. The Council’s Budget will be set by the Full Council on 2 March.
The possible savings which will be under consideration by the Cabinet for 2023/24 will fall roughly into 13 broad categories:
- reduce underspending budgets because of new ways of working following Covid (£1.2m)
- efficiency savings – adjusting working arrangements, changing the way we provide services and providing them in a cheaper way (£1.7m)
- agreeing to requests from other organizations and transferring resources (£40k)
- internalising arrangements – providing some services ourselves rather than using external contractors (£0.4m)
- increase income – increasing the fee for consultancy and other services (£0.9m)
- eliminate vacancies / reduce staffing budgets (£0.3m)
- savings by changing systems or alternative use of systems (£0.2m)
- maximising the use of grants available to fund jobs and activities (£0.4m)
- reducing training budgets by introducing new ways of providing training (£50k)
- restructuring to work more efficiently (£0.3m)
- reduce resources as demand has decreased (£0.2m)
- not putting inflation on budgets (£0.3m)
- savings as a result of a procurement process, for instance the result of a recent tenders being cheaper than the old agreement (£0.4m).