Agenda item

NCC External Pressures - Cost of Living


The Leader introduced the first report to Cabinet colleagues.  This report was Newport City Council’s response to the external pressures impacting Council services.


The purpose of this report was to provide Cabinet with an update on the Council’s response to the external factors are impacting services, communities, and businesses.


The last three years were extremely challenging for Newport Council and its partners, supporting its most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents through the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis.  And also ensuring Newport’s economy and businesses had the necessary support and resilience to withstand global and UK external pressures.


Last week, the Leader announced the financial challenge that Newport Council faced as a result of the continuing inflationary pressures and the budget gap of £33 million.


Like households, businesses and other local authorities in Wales and across the UK, Newport Council was seeing its own costs increase due to fuel and energy costs, increased demand for social care and increasing costs in the delivery of services and goods bought by the Council.


Since 2011, Newport Council has already implemented over £90m of savings and the Council had significantly reduced the size of the organisation, with this in mind, there were very few choices left to us.


More than three quarters of the Council’s budget was funded by a grant from Welsh Government with only a quarter coming from the money raised through council tax. 


This was a very substantial bill despite Newport maintaining one of the lowest rates in Wales for many years.

More than two thirds of the Council’s budget was spent on schools, education and social care. 


No Leader or Cabinet of a local authority wanted to have to make these challenging choices, but the current circumstances mean that a decision on how to reduce budget gap would need to be made.


Next month, Cabinet would receive a number of proposals for consideration before going out to public consultation for residents to have their say on the proposals.


Despite these challenging times, Council officers were continuing to support the vulnerable and disadvantaged residents and supporting businesses as best as they could through the cost of living crisis.


It could not however be left to the Council alone, and Newport’s other public sector organisations, charities, not for profit and voluntary groups and religious groups would need to work together to help provide whatever support we could over the next six months.


Earlier this month, the Leader held a Cost of Living Summit with strategic and community leaders from across Newport to understand how we could work together to find ways in which we could share resources, buildings and other opportunities to support households over this winter period.  As a result of this Summit we were working more closely with other organisations and community leaders to provide the necessary support. 


A Cost of Living Event was also held at the Riverfront Theatre inviting Council and Partners services to provide advice, guidance and support to residents in Newport. 


This event was amongst many other services and initiatives which the Council was leading on.


It was important to stress to residents that if they were struggling with the cost of living to contact their local Councillor, the Council or other organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau who could help and provide or signpost to the appropriate support.


Newport Council also supported the Welsh Government’s Nation of Sanctuary and prided itself on our support for people who were displaced because of persecution, conflicts, and natural disasters. 


Over the last five years many families were welcomed, such as those from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq through UK Government initiatives such as the Home Office dispersal scheme to settle and create a new life in Newport.


Due to the increase in people seeking asylum as a result of impacting global issues, the Home Office announced a ‘Full Dispersal’ approach which required all Local Authorities to become asylum dispersal areas.


And more recently we welcomed Ukrainian families with many residents offering their homes to help provide a secure setting for themselves and their children.


Throughout these challenges, officers from across the Council continued to collaborate and work with other agencies to help people find suitable and secure accommodation in Newport and ensure that they had support they needed.


Comments of Cabinet Members:


§  Councillor Davies mentioned that the Council focussed on what was happening in our schools under these difficult circumstances. Schools had responded to those pupils in need by using grant funding to appoint family liaison officers to pupils.  Schools were becoming a wraparound service for pupils and families.


§  Councillor Harvey agreed with the comments and wanted to remind residents that if they were in any need to contact a councillor who would help get in touch with the right people.


§  Councillor Forsey mentioned that there were a number of advice sessions being held by colleagues for residents to drop in and get the right advice and support.


§  Councillor Hughes added that the report highlighted that the help was there.  If people could come forward, there was a lot of partnership work, food banks and churches for residents to seek help.  It was important that people were able to access these services early.


§  Councillor Clarke hoped that the residents understood that when their bills were going up, so was the Councils due to the current economic climate.  On a positive note, the Council was not leaving people behind and were also providing support for Ukraine refugees.


§  Councillor Batrouni wanted to assure the people of Newport that the Council would do the best it could with what we had under the circumstances.


§  Councillor Lacey added that it was important to support each other as a community. Councillors, Partners and officers alike would be working very hard to support residents over the coming months.


§  Leader also agreed with comments and added that we had to stand side by side and support our communities and officers.



Cabinet considered the contents of the report on the Council’s activity to respond to the external factors on Newport’s communities, businesses and council services.

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