South East Wales

Rhondda Cynon Taf increases school age start

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Media captionParents protested last year over the nursery cuts

One of Wales' biggest councils will increase the age children can start full-time education - but has delayed when the change comes into force.

Pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taf will now attend school from the age of four years rather than three.

But councillors agreed the plans would begin in September, not April, to allow parents time to prepare.

The plans are part of proposals to save £70m over four years.

Pupils will be able to start school in the term after their fourth birthday, rather than the September after.

The council's deputy leader Paul Cannon said the move showed councillors had listened to the public.

Currently, children in the county can attend school full-time from the age of three, and plans to raise the age to four - in line with many other Welsh councils - caused an outcry from parents.

Following a public consultation, which attracted 6,500 responses, the cabinet was to decide on Wednesday if they would implement those proposals from April.

They agreed to allow children to start after their fourth birthday, and chose to delay the start of the plan to give parents more time to prepare.

Other matters being considered were the closure of libraries, day care and youth centres, and changes to meals on wheels.

All 22 local authorities in Wales have either announced or are in the process of agreeing plans to make major budget cuts.

As well as starting children later in nursery school, RCT's phase one proposals include closing 14 of its 26 libraries.

Opening hours

Proposals in phase two of the council's budget plans, were also put out to consultation on Wednesday.

They involve closing the Cynon Valley Museum and Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd, as well as 12 paddling pools open for six weeks each summer.

With leisure services, the authority would close Bronwydd Pool, Llantwit Fardre Leisure Centre and also Hawthorn Swimming Pool, if it cannot be transferred to a neighbouring secondary school.

Sports centres at Rhondda Fach, Abercynon, Tonyrefail and Hawthorn would have reduced opening hours.

All street lights would be switched off for part of the night in non-residential areas, and every other lamp along residential roads.

Bus route subsidies for services that are not commercially viable would be nearly halved, from £841,000 to £441,000 a year.

Higher charges for adult social care services would also be introduced.

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Image caption Muni Arts Centre could close under the money-saving plans

Speaking ahead of the meeting, council deputy leader Paul Cannon, said councillors knew the cuts would be unpopular, but said they had no other choice if they were to meet a £70m deficit.

"It's hard for us to put these out for proposals, it's very uncomfortable, it's very unpleasant but unfortunately [is] absolutely necessary in the current financial climate," he said.

"There are very few people, if any, in Rhondda Cynon Taf that are not going to feel affected in some way by the time we get to the end of this budget setting process.

"My message to them is bear with us, take a look at what's happening around the rest of Wales, the rest of the UK - it's not just Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"We are desperately trying to protect valued services but in order to do that in the current financial situation, we have to make extremely tough and unpleasant changes. We have to make them, we have no choice."

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