Proposal to consult on Fees and Charges levels for next year

Written by on 22nd January 2024

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet will shortly consider next year’s Fees and Charges levels, with many of the costs proposed to be frozen – while a standard increase across Council services would be below the levels of inflation experienced over the past year to protect service users.

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 24, Cabinet will consider an officer report proposing the Fees and Charges levels for the 2024/25 financial year, starting on April 1, 2024. Reviewing these charges is part of the Council’s annual budget-setting process and, if agreed, the proposals will be consulted on as part of the Council’s phase two Budget consultation in the weeks ahead.

The Council provides a wide range of services and the income it receives from charges is an important source of funding to contribute to the cost of maintaining services. The rate of inflation is one key consideration when setting the level of charges, with inflation rates remaining high and ranging from 8.7% in April 2023 to 4.0% in December 2023, and have been above 5% for the majority of the past year. Specific inflation rates, such as for food, have remained extremely high in this period, between 10% and 19%.

The proposed Fees and Charges for 2024/25 have been thoroughly reviewed, with a key aim of not passing the full costs of the inflationary increases onto service users, and these costs to be absorbed by the Council. It is therefore proposed that a standard 5% increase is applied for 2024/25. However, there are a number of proposed exemptions where costs are proposed to be frozen, or increased at a much lower rate.

Proposed exemptions to the standard cost uplift

Car park charges in Aberdare and Pontypridd would be frozen for season tickets and residential permits. Tickets for short and long-stay car parks would increase by 10p (up to four hours) and 20p (over four hours) – however, this will coincide with an upgrade to car park ticket machines that will allow an additional option to pay by card for the first time, this being something residents have told the Council they would like to see made available. The machine upgrades are being funded by an external grant, while the small uplift in ticket costs will help offset transaction costs that will be incurred by the Council from the card payments.

Secondary school meals would increase by 15p per meal in response to the very high inflation rates for food – with meal prices being frozen for two of the past three years. The uplift would set the free school meal value of a meal at £3.10. For primary school pupils, the Council is implementing Welsh Government’s Universal Primary Free School Meals Programme. As of January 2024, all pupils from Reception to Year 4, along with eligible Nursery pupils, are receiving free school meals – with Years 5 and 6 on course to join the programme from April 2024.

The National Lido of Wales, Lido Ponty will retain free entrance for children under the age of 16, while adult admission (£3), paid activities (£2.50) and cold swims (£3.50) will all be frozen. It is proposed that a booking fee of 25p is introduced in an attempt to reduce the number of pre-bookings that do not result in attendance. More than 50,000 pre-booked tickets were not honoured in the 2023 summer season – not only preventing other people from securing a pre-booked place but meaning the Council incurred a third party booking charge even though those tickets were not used.

Rhondda Heritage Park admission fees would have a small uplift of £1 for adults (up to £10.95), 75p for children (£7.50), and £1.60 (£30) for a family of four. Santa’s Toy Mine tickets would increase by £1 across all pricing levels. Leisure for Life Membership is proposed to increase by 50p per month, to a monthly cost of £38 for adults – which represents a 1.3% increase.

Non-residential care services charge rates are proposed to increase by £1, applying to the hourly rates for Home Care and Direct Payments and the Day Centre Services daily rate. Bulky waste collection of up to three items would increase by £3 to £20 – remaining competitive in comparison to other Welsh councils, where charges range between £17 and £25. Community Meals and Day Service meals would increase by 25p (to £4.80), protecting users from the full inflationary impact of food costs. Other Welsh councils charge between £4.55 and £6. The report also includes a proposal to extend the Street Trade License scheme across the whole County Borough, this being subject to a separate report for consideration by the Council’s Licensing Committee.

A full list of proposed Fees and Charges changes for 2024/25 is included in Wednesday’s Cabinet report, and is available to view on the Council website.

Councillor Andrew Morgan OBE, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said:

“Each year, the Council sets its Fees and Charges levels as part of its Budget, aiming to set affordable and competitive prices across our range of quality services. A key consideration by officers has been to protect service users from the full impact of the current high rates of inflation – and a standard 5% increase is proposed as a fair resolution to this. However, many individual costs are also proposed to be exempt, or increased at a much lower rate.

“If agreed, the proposals would deliver additional revenue Budget income of £452,000 per year that would contribute to us setting a legally balanced Budget for 2024/25. This is an extremely challenging process given the huge financial challenges being faced across Local Government – as we aim to tackle one of the Council’s biggest ever Budget gaps of more than £36m for the next financial year. There is no getting away from the fact that this year’s budget setting is one of the most challenging during the last decade.

“Cabinet will consider the Fees and Charges proposals on Wednesday, along with a separate report that details these proposals within the context of a wider draft strategy proposing how next year’s Budget gap could be bridged. Members could agree to consult residents on the proposals in phase two of the Budget consultation, and I would urge residents to have their say.”

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