THE first of five meetings scrutinising Ceredigion County Council’s budget for 2021-22 has been held.

Chairman and vice chairman of the four overview and scrutiny committees were given a detailed overview of the draft budget, Welsh Government settlement, council tax proposals and what savings need to be made by council leader Cllr Ellen ap Gwynn at scrutiny coordination committee.

Committee chairman Cllr Elizabeth Evans reminded members that “detailed scrutiny of specific issues will sit with your individual scrutiny committees.”

She said there were to be “no speeches, only questions”.

The disappointment in a two per cent increase in settlement from Welsh Government was reiterated by Cllr ap Gwynn as she presented a draft budget report, as signed off at cabinet earlier this month.

A 3.5 per cent council tax rise is proposed with the need for £3.4million in cuts and savings to be made – split between cuts to services of £1.3million and the corporate leadership budgets of £2.1million.

“Since I have been leader we have had to face consistent cuts, last year was an exception, unfortunately we’ve fallen back into the same pattern for the coming year,” added Cllr ap Gwynn.

Cllr Rowland Rees Evans asked if an increased settlement was received or a funding floor introduced – as is being lobbied for – would the council tax increase change or would it “stick at 3.5 per cent regardless?”

Any increase was a political decision, he was told by head of finance Stephen Johnson, who added that any increase in money would reduce the levels of cuts required.

Increased demand and above inflation costs increases, combined with a lower than Welsh average council tax rate, impacted on the need for another rise this year, he added in response to Cllr Marc Davies.

Jobs losses were also highlighted, with Cllr Mark Strong asking for an indication of how many could be lost.

Cllr ap Gwynn said that one of the reasons of placing a lower burden of cuts on front line services was to protect jobs.

“It is possible that there will be a few jobs going but there won’t be anything similar to my initial reaction that there was going to be lots of job losses,” she said, adding that lower pupil numbers could impact jobs in schools.

Additional funding was expected to support children in catching up after missing so much face-to-face teaching, but the amounts were as yet unknown, the committee heard.

Procurement and partnership working were also identified as areas for further discussion.

On Thursday, February 18 both healthier communities and learning communities overview and scrutiny will meet to discuss the budget proposals, followed by thriving communities and corporate overview and scrutiny on Friday, February 19.