Agenda item

Consider Options in respect of the 2023/2024 Budget


O.Enoch reaffirmed his interest as left the meeting for this item only.

The circulated report set out a number of budget options for consideration, for the year 2023/24, for the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee; Members would need to consider how the Committee would be developing the substantial workloads within the various work streams going forward.

Officers referred to the initial presentation of the budget, which was included in Appendix A of the circulated report; this provided a full budget evaluation for the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee, if it were to start developing and undertaking work in relation to the four main work streams. It was noted that it entailed employing staff and commissioning certain pieces of work; this evaluation formulated a potential cost of £1.5million, which was considerably more than the current years spend.

Following on from the above, it was stated that the potential cost of £1.5million raised concerns when in discussions with constituent Local Authorities, as this would put extra pressures on their budgets; due to these concerns, Officers carried out a piece of work which formulated different options in regards to setting the budget for the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee for 2023/24. Details of the options were highlighted as follows:

·       Option 1 – To agree to prioritise the work of the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee and levy accordingly.

·       Option 2 – To do minimum in 2023/24 and downsize the budget, with limited work being carried out in each of the work streams; however, still progressing the lower level work such as the Regional Transport Plan (RTP), as there would be an element of budget supporting the Plan going forward. It was mentioned that Welsh Government support of additional funds would be essential in developing certain activities. The circulated report identified that this option set out a budget of around £617k, which was marginally above this year’s budget.

·       Option 3 – Suspend all activities of the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee. It was noted that in order to do this, Welsh Government would have to amend legislation; however, it was something that could be considered for future years (2024/25 onwards), as the budget pressures were likely to continue going forward.


Members were informed that they were required to set a draft budget, before then considering their final decision and formal approval in January 2023; one the draft budget was approved Officers would notify constituent Local Authorities of the indicative budget.

A discussion took place in regards to the proposals for activities in regards to Option 2, which was detailed in Appendix C of the circulated report. The following was highlighted for each of the four work streams:

·       In March 2022, it was noted that the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee approved the South West Wales Regional Energy Strategy; Wales Energy Services were going to be funding this work. Officers were content that although there would be minimal budget provision for this work stream, the work can progress accordingly with the funding from Wales Energy Services.

·       A lot of the work in regards to the Economic Development Strategy was stated to be linked to the Energy Strategy; Officers were comfortable to reduce the budget requirement on this work stream.

·       In regards to the Regional Transport Plan (RTP), it was noted that there was still lack of clarity as to what support was going to be received from Welsh Government in terms of resourcing the Regional Transport Plan; Officers understood that this work stream was a priority for Leaders. The proposal for this work stream, within Appendix C of the circulated report, would be to employ someone to start to co-ordinating the work as there were sufficient monies to be able to do so. It was mentioned that the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee had an underspend projected in this year’s budget, which could be put into a reserve, and used for this work should the Committee need to do more; between now and the January meeting, Officers would press Welsh Government for more certainty and clarity on what resource they were going to put into the Regional Transport Plan activity. 

·       In terms of the Strategic Development Plan (SDP), it was stated that there was still consultation around the timescales and the approach of this work; Officers suggested formally writing to Welsh Government to ask for the SDP timescales to be extended, as there were a number of Local Authorities that needed to progress their Local Development Plans.


Further clarity was provided to the Committee in regards to Option 3, as detailed above. It was explained that the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 created the establishment of the Corporate Joint Committees; the legislation stated that Local Authorities had to have a Corporate Joint Committee, and were required to undertake certain functions. Members were informed that the only way to be able to step away from this requirement was if Welsh Government chose to change the legislation and remove the obligation to have Corporate Joint Committees; it was open for representation to be made to Welsh Government around this matter, in order for them to understand the concerns that Local Authorities had. However, it was confirmed that currently, by law, Local Authorities had to participate in Corporate Joint Committees and have a defined programme of activities.

The Committee discussed the costs and plans around the Energy Strategy in more detail. It was highlighted that the Wales Energy Service had been supporting the development of the Regional Energy Plan, and were now supporting and resourcing the development of the Local Energy Plan; this was funding that would enable this work stream to progress. Members were informed that there was a Regional Energy core group of Officers who had been working with the Welsh Government Energy Service, and partners, over a number of years to produce the strategy; Welsh Government had since then offered additional support for the next two years. It was noted that there will be at least 2-3 Officers in place to help with the roll out of the Local Energy Plan actions, and to assist in the further work of developing the Regional Energy Strategy, which will include supporting individual projects to come forward. In addition to that, it was stated that the region had submitted a bid to UK Government for a launch pad initiative; if successful, could provide a further £7million of grant funding to enable small and medium enterprises to bring forward schemes that will contribute to the Energy Strategy Action Plan. It was concluded that with the support of Welsh Government, the additional resources should be in place within the next 3 months or so.

Members provided their views and concerns in regards to the budget setting, and were unanimously in favour of budget Option 2, which was set out in Appendix C of the circulated report.


That the South West Wales Corporate Joint Committee:

(a) Consider the budget options as set out in Appendix A-C of the circulated report.

(b) Agree and approve the preferred budget option (Option 2, Appendix C) for 2023/24.


Supporting documents: