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Carmarthenshire County Council may need to find savings of £22m

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VERY difficult decisions lie ahead of Carmarthenshire County Council, as the rising cost of inflation, food and energy prices along with increased global demands for goods and services, means that the council is facing a significant shortfall in its 2023/24 budget.

As a best-case scenario, the council must find savings of £6.2m, which is more than 50% higher than previously expected, but this figure could even reach £22m.

The council’s Cabinet has agreed to draw up proposals that could achieve these significant savings.

Councillors and Officers will now work together to develop proposals but, after a decade of reducing its expenditure and unless significant funding is provided by the UK and Welsh Governments, the council must now propose cutting some of its services.

Carmarthenshire Council will soon be engaging with its residents on their opinions and ideas to achieve these savings before an official consultation will be launched ahead of any final decisions.

This situation is not unique to Carmarthenshire, as all local authorities across Wales are facing big shortfalls in their budgets due to the global economic climate.

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said:

“It is essential that the public understand why we are facing this daunting financial situation as a council – a situation unprecedented for many years. This course of action is being forced upon all local authorities across the country, as the circumstances that have brought about these significant shortfalls in our budgets are out of our hands.

“Trebling of energy costs, due in part to the war in Ukraine, means that it will cost us, the council, an extra £10m to heat our buildings – which include schools, residential homes and leisure centres.

“There’s also inflation and its impact on wages. Last year, we budgeted 4% for pay increases but no one could have predicted a 10% inflation level and the subsequently much higher pay demands. After balloting its members, UNISON has just accepted a pay rise offer of just under £2,000 for all its members in local government. This equates to a 10% pay rise for the lowest paid staff, and an average of 7% across the council workforce.

“These, and other factors, have left this council with a very challenging budget shortfall of between £6.2m and £22m for the coming financial year.

“Some may ask, why the variation in our predicted budget shortfall? It is worth noting, that only 20% of our income comes from the council tax. The bulk of our funding comes from the Revenue Support Grant which is a variable settlement we get from the Welsh Government, which in turn, depends on the money it gets from the UK Government.

“Every 1% we get from Welsh Government equates to £3m, but every 1% we receive from the council tax makes up for just under £1m. Until we know how much money we will get this year from the government, we don’t exactly know what the shortfall will be.

“What we do know, is that it will be at least £6.2m, with a worst-case scenario of £22m and, like every other council, we have to, by law, set a balanced budget.

“As local councils, we have suffered over 10 years of cuts to our funding, year after year. In real terms, in Carmarthenshire, we are over £100m worse off than we were a decade ago.

“It is important that the public is kept fully aware of the gravity of the situation; what options we will be considering; their opinion on those options, and any suggestions they may have. This will be in addition to the statutory consultation process towards the end of the year, once we know what the RSG settlement from Welsh Government will be.

“Meanwhile, the internal process continues of considering the least damaging measures of saving money, increasing income, and cutting services and I am very grateful for officers who have drawn up a very detailed and difficult list of options.

However, we must also, along with the Welsh Local Government Association, lobby the UK Government for total support in the face of energy price increases, and the Welsh Government for significant extra funding. Otherwise, we face an unprecedented reduction in services and, or, a double-figure council tax increase.”

Carmarthenshire County Council will go out to consultation, to gather people’s opinions on the council’s proposed plans to achieve savings, before agreeing on its 2023/24 budget. Further information will be published soon.

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Carmarthenshire Archives’ new building officially opened

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ON MONDAY, November 28, Cllr Rob Evans, Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, unveiled a specially designed plaque to commemorate the official opening of the brand new Carmarthenshire Archives building.

The official opening was attended by year 6 pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, along with their Headteacher Mr Dylan Evans, who designed the plaque by compiling various artwork and sketches that are housed at the Archives.

Established in 1959, Carmarthenshire Archives is the local authority archive service for the County of Carmarthenshire and the new building is located at St Peter’s Street, Carmarthen. 

The service is home to our extensive collection of historic documents that date from the 13th century to the present day. The collection includes archives, maps, books, photographs, videos and sound recordings. It is the Archives’ mission to preserve and make its documents available for general study and research.

Admission to Carmarthenshire Archives is free and open to anyone who wishes to use the Council’s records. Most of its services are free, but we do charge for some extra services and help.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John commented:

“Congratulations to the pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, they have designed an excellent and appropriate plaque that is inspired by the treasure troves of our archives. It was wonderful to welcome them to the official opening so that they can see their work take pride of place at a building that holds great significance to us in Carmarthenshire. 

“This is a brand new and modern building that is fit to keep and protect our county’s most precious historical documents. 

“But of course, these documents are meant to be viewed and studied by school children, students, academics and anybody who has an interest in Carmarthenshire’s rich history; and this excellent facility provides the perfect space for people to come and view these treasures.”

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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