Labour to honour its pledge to freeze Cardiff council tax

January 31, 2013 No Comments »
Councillor Russell Goodway will make his budget announcement at a meeting of the full council in Ciy Hall this afternoon.

Councillor Russell Goodway will make his budget announcement at a meeting of the full council in Ciy Hall this afternoon.

Labour will today honour its election pledge to freeze council tax in Cardiff for a year when the group unveils its first budget since winning control of County Hall.

The council tax freeze in Wales’ capital comes as other authorities in South Wales are considering hikes of up to 4%.

Councillor Russell Goodway, Cardiff council’s Cabinet member for finance, has remained tight-lipped, but a well-placed source confirmed there would be no tax rise from April.

Coun Goodway will confirm the freeze and set out which services will be hit by funding cuts when he outlines his draft budget for 2013/14 at this afternoon’s full council meeting. It is thought cuts announced in his statement will include the closure of Cardiff Riding School.

The Labour administration last week revealed it had to find £27m in savings and warned this year’s budget would be “unlike any other” as a result of UK Government spending cuts.

Despite the freeze, householders in the capital will still see their council tax bills rise from April after the South Wales Police precept was hiked by 7% earlier this week.

Elsewhere in South Wales, officers at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council are proposing to increase tax rates by 3.95%, while Caerphilly council is considering a 2.35% rise.

When asked by yourCardiff last week, Coun Goodway declined to comment on whether Cardiff’s budget would include compulsory redundancies.

But last July he warned the council may need to stop undertaking “certain activities” in order to maintain priority services, saying the budget would be “seriously difficult”.

Councillor Russell Goodway

Councillor Russell Goodway

“We need to be clear about this and honest in our assessment of what can be achieved within available resources. The choice may be between aiming to deliver a Rolls-Royce service or a Morris Minor alternative,” he said.

“On the other hand, the council may well need to face up to the hard choice of ceasing to undertake certain activities in order to maintain higher standards in priority service areas.”

The budget unveiling comes as the deadline closes today for applications for the council’s new team of directors. The authority is spending about £200,000 on recruiting 23 senior managers, including two corporate directors on salaries of £130,000 a year.

Eight directors and eight assistant directors will each be paid £120,000 and £80,000 a year respectively, as well as a county solicitor (£120,000), county clerk (£120,000) and two chief officers for finance and human resources (£80,000).

The changes will cost an extra £1.1m a year, but the Labour administration has said this would be “cost neutral” by slashing spending on management consultants.

As part of its recruitment drive, the council is using executive recruitment consultants GatenbySanderson and has taken out two half-page advertisements in a national newspaper.

The principal terms and conditions attached to the posts show the directors would be get 27 days’ annual leave for the first five years of employment and 32 days thereafter, as well as being entitled to eight bank holidays.

They will also receive a maximum of £5,000 “removal expenses” if they relocate from outside Cardiff or a maximum £8,000 if relocating from overseas. In exceptional cases, this could be increased further.

Coun Judith Woodman, Liberal Democrat group leader, said she expected city residents, and especially council staff, would be “absolutely outraged” at the cost of the management restructure.

“It’s rubbing salt into the wounds of staff working at the council,” she said.

“By placing advertisements in a national newspaper, they are obviously trying to catch what they consider to be the best calibre of people and they are going outside before they look internally.”

GMB branch secretary for Cardiff Ken Daniels added: “Is paying all that money going to guarantee the best person? We won’t know that until they are in post.

“We opposed it and still don’t like the idea at a time when there are expected to be budget cuts.”

Shortlisting and appointment of the highly-paid jobs, which will be done by a cross-party committee of councillors, takes place between March and May.

A council spokesman said that, given the difficulties faced by the public sector, it was “essential” the authority put in place a senior management team “with the capacity and skills needed to meet those challenges whilst delivering the administration’s vision”.

He added that “every step is being taken to attract the best candidates for the job” and that recruitment costs would be met from savings on management consultants.

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