South East Wales

Cardiff council tax freeze plan amid £22m of budget cuts

Cardiff Riding School protest
Image caption Supporters of Cardiff Riding School protested outside the meeting

Cardiff council leaders are proposing to freeze council tax rises in the coming year - but warn that hundreds of council workers could lose their jobs.

The Labour-led cabinet said cuts of £22m had to be found in the next budget.

But it said closing the city's riding school was not among its proposals.

Instead, it insisted it was looking for an outside organisation to take up the reins at the school.

Councillor Russell Goodway, who holds the finance portfolio in the Cardiff cabinet, told the full council meeting that it was working to find an alternative operator to run the riding school on its 30-acre site in Pontcanna.

Earlier, the full council meeting was suspended for 15 minutes while members were given a chance to talk to supporters of the riding school protesting outside.

Thirty staff at the riding centre claim they were sent letters telling them that the school would close on 1 April.

But Mr Goodway told the meeting that the school would remain open until a new partner was found to run it.

"We will not be bringing down the shutters on the riding school on the 31st of March," he insisted.

However, delivering proposals for the 2013-2014 budget, Mr Goodway warned that massive savings must be found, which will lead to job losses.

"The picture is far from rosy. I am not looking to put a gloss on it or spin. There is no escaping the pain," he told the meeting.

Job loss fears

Mr Goodway said the council needed to find £110m of savings during the lifetime of the current council, including £22.5m in the coming year.

"It means that some service areas will see budgets cut by 90% by 2021," he said.

He said that there would be "serious collateral damage", with jobs and services hit - including 300 post closures in the next year.

He told the council that he hoped that most job cuts would be voluntary, but added that compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out.

As well as announcing plans to freeze council tax, Mr Goodway said budgets for schools and social services in the city were being protected, and both would see rises in cash available.

Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition councillors said they would wait to see "the devil in the detail" before coming to any firm decisions on the budget proposals.

But the Plaid Cymru group leader, Neil McEvoy, said the proposals were being delivered by a "right-wing Labour council" who were nothing more than "red Tories".

The budget will be put to a full council meeting at the end of February.

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