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OF OUR VALLEY
Elected Members agree the Council's Budget
Strategy for 2020/21
Full Council has agreed the Councils 2020/21 Budget Strategy delivering one of the lowest Council Tax rises in Wales, an increase of £12.7m for schools, and additional and important new funding for youth engagement and childrens services.
During February 2020, Cabinet agreed to recommend a draft strategy for the Councils spending next year and Elected Members agreed this approach at their meeting on Wednesday, March 4. The Budget Strategy is based upon the final Local Government Settlement that was recently published by Welsh Government and has increased the Councils funding by 4.5% for next year.
A report to Wednesdays meeting asked Councillors to consider important aspects of the Budget Strategy, put forward by Cabinet after two phases of public consultation in November/December 2019 and January/February 2020. Across both phases, more than 4,000 people engaged with the Council.
The Strategy includes an additional £9.3m for Community and Childrens Services (including social care) as well as additional funding for Youth Engagement, tackling poverty and helping community groups open paddling pools during the summer. It delivers £6m efficiency savings and proposes a 2.85% council tax rise, which is lower than consulted upon and likely to be one of the lowest rises in Wales next year.
The report also outlined the proposed Fees and Charges for 2020/21, also put forward by Cabinet last month. It includes a freeze on the cost of hiring playing fields, car parking and Leisure for Life. A broader summary of the Budget Strategy, including Fees and Charges, is included below.
The wider Strategy also takes into consideration the funding made available in February 2020 following the devastating impact of Storm Dennis. A total of £1.5m was provided as an urgent allocation from the Councils reserves, to support immediate recovery requirements. The Council has also announced an allocation of £800,000 to make grants available for the renovation of properties which experienced internal flooding in the unprecedented weather.
Councillor Andrew Morgan. Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: Our 2020/21 budget delivers significant extra funding for Education, Community and Childrens Services, and Youth Engagement and this will really make a difference to young people across the County Borough. We have also been able to freeze costs for car parking and sports pitches while also providing extra funding to help community groups open paddling pools in the summer.
The Budget also includes a 2.85% Council Tax rise, which is lower than we initially consulted upon and likely to be one of the lowest in Wales, as every County Borough implements a rise to tackle the continued financial pressures in Local Government. In the first phase of consultation, residents told us that a 3% rise was fair and reasonable in order to protect our vital services and Im pleased that we have been able to achieve this at 2.85%.
The Council has also continued its ongoing commitment to deliver efficiency savings in the everyday running of the Council. The 2020/21 budget will now deliver a further £6m in efficiency savings, which brings the total savings through this avenue to around £95m over the past 10 years.
Overall, it is positive picture, taking advantage of the final Welsh Government Settlement which has allowed us to avoid service cuts, and we continue to allocate significant additional funding to our priority investment areas.
Key elements of the now agreed-upon Budget for 2020/21 include:
A 2.85% Council Tax rise, likely to be one of the lowest in Wales next year.
Across the two phases of consultation, more than 4,000 people engaged with
the process. During Phase 2, around 78% of participants felt the approach
to Council Tax was reasonable, while 92% agreed with the Education funding
strategy, 87% agreed with the approach to efficiency savings and 88% agreed
with the investment in Youth Engagement.
The Council has provided an update on its inspection of tips across Rhondda Cynon Taf after Storm Dennis and the further heavy rainfall which has followed.
Unprecedented weather conditions hit the County Borough causing flooding in local communities on Sunday, February 16 and further heavy rainfall has followed, including Storm Jorge (February 28-29). These severe weather events have caused a significant landslip at Tylorstown Upper Tip, along with a number of minor landslips at several other mountainside locations.
Disused tips are regulated by the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. Some tips are owned by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council (formerly under the ownership of Mid Glamorgan County Council) while some are privately-owned and others are under the control of the Coal Authority or Natural Resources Wales.
Tips in Rhondda Cynon Taf Council are categorised on a risk-based approach from A to D, with D being the highest risk.
The Council has coordinated inspections of all Category C and D tips by highly experienced, independent consulting engineers.
With the exception of Tylorstown Upper Tip, there are no substantive ongoing issues at any of the inspected tips, though some will require maintenance for example, to clear grills and deal with scour. Some tips may also have increased monitoring regimes moving forward.
Following a meeting with Secretary of State for Wales, the First Minister and the Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, the Coal Authority has been asked to review the situation regarding disused tips across Wales.
On Monday, March 2, senior engineers met with the Coal Authority to review information held by the Council on disused tips in Rhondda Cynon Taf together with our risk categorisation process and inspection regimes.
They now intend to use the RCT risk categorisation process (A-D) as the basis of risk categorisation for all tips across the south Wales coalfields. Positive comments were also offered regarding the knowledge, dedication and professionalism of the teams managing these tips.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, said: Storm Dennis, along with further weather events which followed, have brought unprecedented weather and a devastating impact to properties and infrastructure across the County Borough. The Council has been working around the clock to help those affected, and to the ongoing clean-up operation that is required in a number of our local communities.
One of the many consequences of the severe weather was several landslips at a number of locations. The Council has completed independent inspections of all category C and D tips, which have been undertaken by specialist geotechnical engineers.
Following the inspections, a number of issues at several locations have arisen and are currently being monitored. Below is an update on each:
Tylorstown Upper Tip - monitoring is in place following a significant slip from the tip. Contractors are on site carrying out temporary drainage works to divert water safely away from the slip area. On completion of the drainage works, the site will continue to be monitored regularly and longer-term proposals will be developed as the tip dries out.
Ynyshir Community Route - currently closed due to a minor landslip and consultants have been approached over remedial solutions.
Margaret Street, Pontygwaith - a small land slip has been cleared from the footway and the area is stable. The footway has re-opened.
Maerdy Mountain Road - one lane is closed and traffic is being managed under traffic signal control. The situation is being reviewed and the road will be reopened to two-way traffic shortly after removal of slip material. Permanent remediation will be undertaken later in the year.
Pontygwaith - a minor landslip on private land to the rear of the local primary school is currently being monitored and is stable. An adjacent watercourse is being cleared regularly.
Wattstown Tip - there has been debris flow from a pre-existing scar on the tip. Geotechnical engineers had already inspected the tip after Storm Dennis and have reviewed the tip after Storm Jorge. There is no immediate concern and the Council will review what actions, if any, could be taken under the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act.
Mountain Ash - a localised landslip occurred onto the railway line at the Cross Valley Link construction site, caused by a private culvert overflowing in adjacent streets. Network Rail is undertaking remedial works. There are ongoing discussions between Network Rail, the Council and the Cross Valley Link contractor.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has also been dealing with land slips at Blaencwm, Treherbert and Clydach Vale, which are located on NRW land
The Council will begin a series of improvements to a pedestrian crossing in Penrhiwceiber to increase safety requiring two-way traffic lights on the B4275 and a closure to a section of Cross Street.
Work on the pedestrian crossing at B4275 Penrhiwceiber Road near the medical centre and paddling pool will begin from Monday, March 9. The scheme will provide a safer environment for pedestrians and road users.
The work will move the crossing point a short distance away from the junction, while the kerb will also be realigned to improve the left turn onto Cross Street for southbound traffic. The scheme will also include extending the electrical ducting and cabling, along with carriageway resurfacing and road markings.
This scheme is jointly-funded by #RCTinvest, through the £25.9m Capital Programme for Highways and Transportation in 2019/20, along with a Welsh Government grant allocated for the 2019/20 financial year.
The Council has appointed Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd. as the contractor with responsibility for delivering the work which will last around four weeks.
Traffic management deployed by the contractor will include closing a section of Cross Street to utilise phased lane closures and two-way traffic lights on the B4275. Works will be carried out during normal working hours and the use of temporary traffic signals will avoid peak hours in order to minimise any disruption.
Service 3 (Penrhiwceiber-Cefnpennar) operated by Globe Coaches will be unable to serve Woodfield Terrace for the duration of the Cross Street closure and will operate via Penrhiwceiber Road to and from Cefnpennar and Mountain Ash until the scheme is complete.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, said: This scheme at Penrhiwceiber Road will improve safety for pedestrians and road users along a section of the B4275, to improve a well-used crossing. We have welcomed a significant contribution from Welsh Government alongside our own #RCTinvest funding, to deliver this project for the benefit of the community.
It is similar to a scheme which started in Trealaw last month, to move the crossing point a short distance from a junction. The scheme in Penrhiwceiber will improve safety in a busy area which serves the communitys primary school and railway station and it will also ensure the left turn off the B4275 onto Cross Street is less sharp for southbound traffic, and therefore safer.
This scheme will be carried out with traffic lights on the B4275 outside of peak hours, to minimise disruption as much as possible while a section of Cross Street will temporarily close. The Council will work with its contractor to ensure this scheme is carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Councils incredibly successful Jobs Fair has broken attendance records for the third year in a row!
Over 2,100 people attended the RCT Jobs Fair at the new 3 Llys Cadwyn in the heart of Pontypridd, and with over 40 employers present, all with job opportunities, apprentice schemes, and graduate programmes, it was a huge hit with those that visited.
3 Llys Cadwyn the Councils flagship development in Pontypridd, forms part of the regeneration of the old Taff Vale Precinct. The development will include the Transport for Wales HQ, Grade A office floorspace, and a food/drink unit, with 3 Llys Cadwyn housing a 21st Century library, Council contact point, and a state-of-the-art leisure and fitness centre.
Feedback from those who attended was overwhelmingly positive, with 96% of people rating the helpfulness of staff as excellent/good, and 97% of people saying they would attend a similar event in the future.
For the first time, the RCT Jobs Fair featured a Quiet Hour between 9-10am. The Quiet Hour was catered towards individuals who struggle with music and noise, such as people on the autism spectrum, and attracted a large number of individuals who may otherwise have not attended and missed out on employment and training opportunities.
Also at the event, staff were selling refreshments and cakes to raise money toward the RCT Flood Fund, raising nearly £400 from generous visitors.
This year, the RCT Jobs Fair was in partnership with the Councils Meet the Buyer event, which is aimed a local companies to give them the opportunity to network with other businesses and organisations.
Meet the Buyer is aimed primarily at Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), to help them find out how they can become part of a larger supply chain, either through providing their goods and/or services or becoming sub-contractors to other companies. Attended by some of the regions largest organisations and the big spenders in both the public and private sectors, it offered an invaluable opportunity to SMEs to make contacts and enquire about contracts.
Councillor Maureen Webber, Deputy Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said: Once again the RCT Jobs Fair was a huge success!
Year on year the RCT Jobs Fair is growing in visitor numbers and employers on offer, bringing together high-quality employers looking for new staff, all in one place. This is clearly valued by residents, bringing opportunities closer to them.
Im proud that this year, for the first time, the RCT Jobs Fair featured a Quiet Hour for individuals who struggle with music and noise, which was really well received. It is this commitment to inclusion and equality that is at the heart of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, and highlights how we are listening to residents.
The Council is committed to attracting high-quality jobs to the local area and helping our residents into sustainable, reliable and well-paid employment, and the RCT Jobs Fair is one way in which we are working to accomplish this. By bringing employers into the local communities, residents have the chance to interact with businesses, discover vocations they may not have considered, and potentially walk away with an interview in the bag!
Every event, we rotate between the Rhondda, Cynon, and Taff-Ely areas of the County Borough, to ensure that residents within Rhondda Cynon Taf have equal opportunities to attend, with the next event taking place in Cynon in the autumn.
What was also pleasing to see was how many people took the opportunity to visit Pontypridd Town Centre at the same time as visiting the RCT Jobs Fair. The community spirit across Rhondda Cynon Taf has been incredible since the devastating flooding that affected our communities, and it was noticeable that people came out to support the town centre and the community after such a tragedy.
The Council has now begun a process in which members of the Mountain Ash community, including local schools and groups, are invited to submit their suggestions for the official name of the new Cross Valley Link Bridge.
The multi-million pound highways scheme is seeing a road bridge built from Cwm Cynon Industrial Estate to Miskin Road, providing a new link between the A4059 and B4275. The project is a long term-aspiration for the Council and residents, and will be completed in early summer 2020. It will improve traffic flow in Mountain Ash and on the A4059 route through the Cynon Valley.
While contractor Walters-Sisk continues to make excellent progress in constructing the new bridge, the Council is providing an opportunity for the local community to have their say on what they want the bridge to be called in a process to give the 21st Century landmark a fitting name.
The structure will be at the heart of the community for generations to come, and the Council is asking residents to put forward suggestions which meets one of the following:
recognises or references the history of the area;
recognises individuals of significance, either historically or through their personal achievement, with local routes or connections to Mountain Ash or the lower Cynon Valley;
recognises events of local and historical significance; or,
reflects the wider landscape and culture of Mountain Ash.
The Council is inviting local schools in the Mountain Ash cluster and members of the community to submit suggestions to: https://www.rctcbc.gov.uk/EN/GetInvolved/Consultations/CrossValleyLinkNameSuggestion.aspx.
Submissions must also be accompanied by a statement of up to 250 words, explaining why they feel their name should be chosen. All suggestions must be received by April 6, 2020 in order to be considered. Please note, any suggestions written on social media will not be considered. Any submissions in English will be translated into Welsh, and will need to have a suitable Welsh translation to be considered.
A panel comprising Council representatives and local historians will then consider all of the suggestions and draw up a shortlist of three names. These three names will be polled via public questionnaires and online. The most popular name will be unveiled during the official opening of the road.
Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for Highways, said: The Council wants the local community to be involved in developing the official name of the new Cross Valley Link Bridge, which will soon become an important landmark in Mountain Ash for many years to come.
As a result, we are now inviting schools in the Mountain Ash cluster, community groups and local residents to submit their suggestions for its new name and we are asking each entry to reflect the culture, history and values of the local area. A shortlist of three names will then be selected by a panel, with the community given a final opportunity to choose the name in a poll vote.
This process is a great opportunity for local people to name their new bridge, which is owned by the community and the winning school, group or individual will be invited to the official opening of the bridge, once completed. Those people or groups who would like to take part now have until April 6 to submit their suggestion.
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