Cardiff Council’s budget proposals 2023/24: Here’s what you need to know

The new budget proposal contains key updates on several hotly-contested issues

  • Council tax to rise almost 1% more than expected
  • Museum of Cardiff to remain – for now – amid “victory for people power”
  • St David’s Hall lease deal to go ahead
  • Libraries opening hours to remain unchanged
  • Hikes to cost of residential parking permits
  • Job losses for over 150 council workers

A LARGER than expected rise in council tax sits alongside a “victory for people power” as Cardiff Council released its final budget proposals for the coming year.

Initial plans, put forward in a public consultation that took place in January, contained cuts to several cultural assets – including a museum, libraries and St David’s Hall – which led to public protest.

The council has to fill a £23.5m hole in its finances, due to a combination of inflation-related cost hikes and increased demand for services.

All proposals will be debated in City Hall on March 9 (Credit: Angus Tiffin)

The original planned cuts, outlined in January’s budget consultation, created a significant public backlash over the emotive issue of cuts to cultural life in the city.

Now, the results of the public consultation – in which almost 6,000 people participated – have seen the council change some of these proposals. However, where some services have been saved, other areas will see jobs cut and public charges increased.

Here’s what we now know:

Council tax to rise more than expected & 173 job cuts

Cardiff Council is planning to hike tax by 3.95%, that is 0.95% more than it proposed last December.

This means there will be an overall increase of around £1 per week for a household in Band D, bringing the council in an extra £6.5m for the financial year 2023-24. A 1% increase generates an extra £1.6m.

It now also expects to have to make a combined £15m in corporate and efficiency savings, up £6.5m on their modelling in December. While these savings won’t affect frontline services, the council expects around 173 backroom jobs to be lost.

Cabinet member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, Cllr Chris Weaver, said: “We are really conscious of the cost-of-living crisis, which is being felt by people across the city, but without raising council tax we just wouldn’t be able to safeguard the services that are important to our residents.

“This will be among the lowest increases in Council Tax in Wales, well below inflation, but it will bring in an extra £6.5m.

“Anyone who is struggling to pay and is eligible will be able to access support through the Council Tax reduction scheme.

“Of course, this rise in council tax doesn’t mean we won’t have to make savings. They will come on top of over £200m we have cut from our budget over the past 10 years.

It is very clear to me that austerity is back

“Unfortunately, around 173 posts will be lost across the council, most of these will be made up from voluntary severance and removing vacant roles, but it is very clear to me that austerity is back – although in truth it feels like it never went away.”

The Museum of Cardiff to stay in the Old Library

In January’s consultation, the council introduced plans to move the Museum of Cardiff out of its home in the Old Library and make it a pop-up attraction.

There were concerns that this would simultaneously jeopardise the museum’s Accredited status – and, in turn, its ability to fund itself – while also leaving Cardiff without reliable means to access to its past.

Protesters outside the Museum of Cardiff (Credit: Angus Tiffin)

The council is no longer pursuing these plans, saying that the Museum of Cardiff will “remain open in the Old Library for now”.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas, said: “The proposal to reduce the offer at the Museum of Cardiff and/or switch to a mobile-based service has been removed.

“Instead, we will work with the trustees of the museum to secure a sustainable future, including looking at options for delivering the service at an alternative location.”

Jane Henderson, a Professor of Conservation at Cardiff University and critic of the plans to make the museum remote, said: “I am delighted that the value of the Museum of Cardiff has been recognised as an integral part of Cardiff’s life and identity by the 100s of citizens who wrote letters, signed petitions, marched, and spoke up.

See the more media from the protest below

“We are also delighted that their voice has been heard by Cardiff City Council.

“Our attention has to turn to building a more secure future for the museum that matches Cardiff’s ambitions to be stronger, fairer, greener, city.

“For this to succeed we need investment in displays, continued support for partnerships and return to collecting as these are all essential for the lifeblood of the museum.

“In the longer term and in partnership with other services, user groups and experts, options for an enhanced development of the museum can be considered.

We know that a museum can be a catalyst for growth, inspiration, and unity

“The museum has shown what it can do already – but like the recent announcements of massive investment in museums in Wrexham and Swansea we know that a museum can be a catalyst for growth, inspiration, and unity.

“I and many other museum professionals look forward to supporting the staff and trustees of the museum to deliver this for all of us.”

42.9% of respondents to the council’s consultation wanted to keep the museum in the Old Library.

Libraries and hubs to keep the same opening hours, but ‘small number’ of paid roles to be cut

January’s budget consultation gave respondents several choices regarding the future of hubs and libraries, including:

  • Removing some vacant jobs and relying more on volunteer work.
  • Closing hubs and libraries on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Closing hubs and libraries by a whole extra day per week.
  • Maintaining service at current levels.

Cardiff Council has now confirmed that libraries and hubs will not have their opening hours reduced. However, it does still intend to reduce the number of available paid jobs.

Cllr Huw Thomas said: “In respect of Hubs and Libraries, proposals to reduce opening hours and/or close on weekends have not been taken forward. Any changes are being limited to removing a small number of long-term vacant posts in the service.”

Adam Johannes from Cardiff People’s Assembly, a campaigning group formed in opposition to austerity and privatisation, called the decision to maintain the facilities’ current opening hours a “big victory for people power”.

Cardiff People’s Assembly has been organising protests against the potential cuts alongside Cardiff Civic Society, trade unions and various other groups associated with Cardiff’s history and culture.

Protesters collectively reading outside Cardiff Central Library (Credit: Angus Tiffin)

However, Mr Johannes did also voice his concern about the cuts to paid library staff: “The consultation suggested losing a small number of vacant library posts. These appear to be unfilled because the council deliberately has not advertised vacancies for these posts.

“Our city’s library services are currently understaffed meaning staff are too often working under pressure. Across the UK it is estimated that quarter of paid skilled library staff lost their jobs since 2010, a huge loss of expertise to our nation’s library services.

“We believe that public libraries must be publicly owned, run and funded with paid trained professional library staff. We ask Cardiff Council to fill these posts.”

Privatisation of St David’s Hall to go ahead

Cardiff Council is set to continue with the controversial move to lease the National Concert Hall of Wales to AMG/Live Nation – a multinational music venue company.

The council argues that the change in management in necessary to secure the hall’s finances and guarantee the investment it needs to stay open. It projects that, were it to continue managing the venue next year, it would have to subsidise it by £800,000.

There are significant concerns about the impact that the handover could have on the identity of the building. Where its current subsidised status allows St David’s Hall to host a variety of events – including Welsh talent – a for-profit arena may sacrifice this in pursuit of revenue.

The council says that the proposed deal “would safeguard the classical and community calendar of events while also upgrading the hall”.

Mr Johannes, from Cardiff People’s Assembly, told The Cardiffian: “Outrageously, the planned privatisation of St David’s Hall has not been scrapped.

“We continue to fight the privatisation of St David’s Hall. While we are delighted to have protected some of our community venues from austerity and cuts, overall, the rest of the budget is a terrible budget for the people of our city.

“Cardiff Council call it a ‘Budget for a Stronger, Greener and Fairer city.’ Lies and spin! This is an austerity budget. This budget, like others before it, degrades the quality of local services. It increases charges, prices, taxes on local residents during a cost of living crisis. It follows twelve years of managed decline.

“Cardiff Council must stop making annual budget cuts and lead a fight against the Government for the money our city needs.”

Cardiff Conservatives have also voiced concerns about what the proposal might mean for Cardiff’s music venue market, with eight Councillors penning a joint letter to the Competition and Markets authority.

AMG/Live Nation already run Cardiff International Arena and are also set to become a joint operator of the new venue in Cardiff Bay, raising concerns that the company will monopolise the Cardiff concert scene.

Protesters celebrating St David’s 40th birthday (Credit: Angus Tiffin)

Fifty nine per cent of respondents to the council’s budget consultation supported the proposal to find a new operator for St David’s Hall.

School and social service funding to rise to match inflation – school meals subsidised

The council will increase school funding by £25m in 23/24, in line with the amount that it expects inflation to drive up costs by.

Similarly, funding for Adult and Children’s Social Services is set to get a £23m bump, in line with cost increases.

However, the price of school meals is also expected to increase by around 5% – £2.60 to £2.75 and £3.15 to £3.30 in primary and secondary schools, respectively.

The council expects the cost of supplying these meals to increase by more than this, and so holding price increases to 5% acts as an effective subsidy.

Other service changes

Other changes to council services include:

  • Recycling centres closing one day a week
  • Leasing out Cardiff International White Water Rafting Centre
  • Increasing the cost of cremation by 5.1% and the cost of burial by 6.8%
  • Increasing the price of residential parking permits, from £7.50 to £24 for the first car and £30 to £54 for the second
  • Increasing the price of hiring sports pitches by 10%, around £5-£8 per booking
  • Increasing pay and display charges by 50p on streets and £1 in council car parks
Pay and display charges are set to increase

The dates to watch

  • Debate and scrutiny of the budget will begin February 27. It will then be submitted to Cabinet on March 2, and to Full Council on March 9. All council meetings can be viewed online here.