At a National Park Authority meeting on Friday 5th February, Members agreed plans to deliver the budget cuts required to achieve a balanced budget in the financial year 2016/17. The Authority has to accommodate a 4.7% budget reduction, equivalent to £218,000. In the last three years the National Park Authority has had to save more than £1 million from its budget.
The Authority held an internal consultation on proposals intended to make the savings and, in the meeting on Friday 5th February, Members considered a detailed report on these and heard alternative suggestions which had emerged from the consultation responses and public comments. Members accepted a voluntary redundancy as part of these measures.
There has been a misunderstanding that the National Park Visitor Centre (outside Libanus) is in jeopardy even though the original paper did not include a proposal to close the Centre. Instead the plans addressed the future of the Visitor Information service and shop area; at no time has closure of the tea rooms been proposed. Members agreed that the Information service and shop will now remain open until 30th September 2016, the rest of the Centre will be open as normal. Members heard that during the consultation period a number of alternative proposals had been received and these will be considered by a working group who will bring a revised paper to be discussed on June 10th at the National Park Authority meeting.
It was agreed however that the Waterfalls Centre in Pontneddfechan will close as of 6 June 2016. National Park Authority officers are in discussions with representatives of the Pontneddfechan community to explore local interest in taking elements of the exhibition, currently housed at the Waterfalls Centre, to the Village hall. It was noted that Cwm Porth information point and car park will remain open and this offers another access point to the waterfalls area. The Geopark Centre which is currently located at the Waterfalls Centre will be moved to Craig-y-nos Country Park.
All local Authorities have a statutory duty to manage their rights of way network. Within the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, Councils have delegated these duties to the National Park Authority and make a small financial contribution to delivering that work. Members agreed to work with the County and Borough Councils to identify ways of continuing this important work in the light of current and future financial constraints. There are no proposals to make changes to the excellent maintenance work undertaken by wardens and volunteers on rights of way across the National Park.
Members agreed that some elements of planning services would move towards provision through electronic means in order to deliver savings.
Mel Doel, Chair of the National Park Authority said:
“All local Authorities are facing difficult decisions and we are no exception. Today we agreed a series of actions which will produce a balanced budget. The difficult decisions we took were informed by the staff consultation and the responses we received from the public. We pride ourselves on being a listening Authority and I think the outcomes from today show that.”