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Neath Port Talbot

Budget plans for Neath Port Talbot could mean 3.75% Council tax increase but no cut in services

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Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet are to be asked for permission to consult on a proposed 3.75% council tax increase, but no cuts to services for next year.

The council has published its draft budget proposals for 2021/22 in a report that will be presented to Cabinet on 13 January.

The report outlines an anticipated £3.235m shortfall for the coming financial year, together with draft proposals to close the gap. These include implementing measures to the value of £135,000 that were agreed last year, using £3.1m from general reserves and consulting on a proposed 3.75% Council Tax increase to balance the budget.

Cllr Carol Clement Williams, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “We warmly welcome the increase in the 2021/22 Provisional Local Government Settlement announced by Welsh Government at the end of December. Neath Port Talbot’s share of this is £236.680m, the sixth best in Wales and an increase of £9.9m or 4.2%.

“During a particularly difficult and unprecedented few months for everyone, we have had to adapt the way we deliver our services in light of Covid-19 and this is likely to continue in the coming months. The increase in the provisional settlement means that for the first time in more than 10 years we may be able to exclude proposals for service cuts in our budget proposals, but to do this we would still need a contribution from Council Tax.

“This Council has worked hard to keep the Council Tax increase to the lowest possible level, balanced against the need to provide the services that so many of our residents and businesses rely on.”

The Council gets most of its revenue budget from the Welsh Government, with Council Tax providing approximately 25% of the Council’s total income.

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When they consider the report next week, Elected Members will not be asked to make any final decisions, but to give their approval for a public consultation on the draft proposal.

The draft proposals would also see a continued investment in education next year, with provision for an increase in the delegated schools budget of £3.2m to £93.3m, a 3.52% increase.

Subject to approval from Cabinet, the consultation will commence straight after the Cabinet meeting at 2pm on Wednesday 13 January 2021 and run until Friday 12 February 2021.

The Council’s Budget for 2021/22, including Council Tax bands for the county borough, is due to be considered by Cabinet on Monday 8 March 2021, following the public consultation and receipt of the Welsh Government’s Final Local Government Settlement.

(Lead image: Jaggery / Geograph)

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot RNLI shop open again for business

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Following refurbishment, visitors to Port Talbot will once again be able to visit the shop located at the lifeboat station at Aberavon seafront.

The shop refit marks the start of a new era. The shop was opened in loving memory of the previous shop manager, Phil Jones, who sadly passed away in early 2021.

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Phil had kept the shop open single-handedly for over twelve years with much success. Phil’s wife and daughter kindly agreed to officially open the new shop on Sunday 12 June when many memories were shared and there were plenty of best wishes for the future.

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local station. Around 1920 commemorative RNLI products were added and shops were selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, all profits helping to save lives at sea.

The RNLI now has over 170 shops around the coast and inland all of which are run by dedicated volunteers: Port Talbot is no exception.

The shop volunteer team has grown since April 2021 from a team of one to thirteen and is also involved with fundraising.

New Shop Manager Kirstee David says: “It has been amazing watching the shop team develop over the last twelve months and to see how passionate the team is about developing what we offer – and about the RNLI!”

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(Lead image: Port Talbot RNLI)

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Neath

Body found in search for missing Neath man

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A body has been found in the search for missing man Mathew Scott who was last seen on Saturday 4th June in Neath.

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Owens from South Wales Police said: “Officers, following up on information sent into us by members of the public, forced entry to an address in Windsor Road, Neath, yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 28th June) and found a body inside.

“Formal identification has taken place and Mathew’s family have been informed.

“Detectives are continuing enquiries to ascertain the full circumstances behind his death. A 44 year old man from Neath is assisting officers with their investigation.

“I’d like to thank everyone who shared our appeal and provided us with valuable information.”

(Lead image: South Wales Police)

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