ANGER OVER ‘OLIVER TWIST’ COMMENTS

Gwynedd coun­cil leader blasts Welsh Min­is­ter’s ‘puerile’ claims:

Caernarfon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Tom Mol­loy

CASH-STRAPPED coun­cils across North Wales are warn­ing of ‘dev­as­tat­ing’ cuts as they wres­tle with a ‘wicked’ drop in Welsh Government fund­ing.

And one ac­cused Min­is­ters of hand­ing the region ‘crumbs from the ta­ble’ while many south Wales coun­cils fare much bet­ter from the next year’s ‘lo­cal government set­tle­ment.

Around 80% of coun­cil money comes from the ‘set­tle­ment’ which ac­cord­ing to the Welsh Government is dis­trib­uted on a “needs based for­mula”.

The pro­vi­sional rev­enue set­tle­ment an­nounced two weeks ago sees a £12.3m cut in fund­ing to Welsh coun­cils for 2019-20 – which equates to a fall of 0.3% to nearly £4.214bn

An­gle­sey, Conwy and Flintshire re­ceived the joint big­gest cuts in the coun­try, at 1% each, while Gwynedd, Wrex­ham and Den­bighshire also saw re­duc­tions of -0.8%, -0.6% and -0.5% re­spec­tively.

In con­trast, Cardiff is set for a 0.4% rise in their set­tle­ment amount, while other South Wales au­thor­i­ties such as Merthyr Tyd­fil, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Neath Port Tal­bot, New­port, Tor­faen and Swansea also see­ing a boost to their fund­ing. The av­er­age for South Wales was a cut of just 0.07%.

Wrex­ham County Bor­ough Coun­cil is set to re­ceive just over £174m – £1.054m less than they did last year.

Once ris­ing costs such as staff pay in­creases are taken into ac­count, it leaves the coun­cil facing spend­ing cuts of £9m. Among the op­tions be­ing con­sid­ered to bal­ance the books are li­brary clo­sures, cuts in bin col­lec­tions and a 6% coun­cil rise.

Wrex­ham Coun­cil Leader and Lead Mem­ber for Fi­nance, Cllr Mark Pritchard said: “This set­tle­ment is dev­as­tat­ing for us.

“When it was an­nounced, I was shocked, stunned, re­ally dis­ap­pointed, and an­gry.

“I’ll chal­lenge any­body, whether they’re an MP or an AM to come and sit down, have a dis­cus­sion and work along­side me, other elected mem­bers and of­fi­cers to run a lo­cal author­ity on the money that we’re re­ceiv­ing.

“Are we re­ceiv­ing the crumbs from the ta­ble in North Wales? I do be­lieve that and I think there’s still a north/south di­vide.

“They’re tak­ing money off us and then they’re try­ing to stop us mak­ing the cuts. It’s mad­ness.

“I know as a lo­cal author­ity that we’ve done ev­ery­thing we can within the lo­cal arena that we live in. I don’t know what more we can do.”

Flintshire is due to be among the worst hit lo­cal au­thor­i­ties – with a £1.897 mil­lion re­duc­tion from last year’s set­tle­ment.

Flintshire County Coun­cil Leader, Cllr Aaron Shot­ton said: “At some point soon, one or more coun­cils might have to ad­mit that they are no longer able to legally bal­ance their bud­get, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the qual­ity and safety of lo­cal ser­vices, un­der such in­tense fi­nan­cial pres­sure.

“The tax­payer could be faced with larger than ever Coun­cil Tax rises next year be­cause Welsh Government is no longer fund­ing coun­cils to the level of proven need.”

Den­bighshire County Coun­cil de­scribed the cuts as ‘deeply dis­ap­point­ing’ after their pro­vi­sional set­tle­ment amount was an­nounced as £697,000 less than last year.

Cllr Ju­lian Thomp­son-Hill, cab­i­net lead mem­ber for fi­nance, said: “We are deeply dis­ap­pointed in the draft set­tle­ment for Den- bighshire as there is a sig­nif­i­cant gap be­tween what is be­ing put on the ta­ble and the ac­tual funds needed to de­liver core ser­vices.

“Of course we were nat­u­rally ex­pect­ing re­duc­tions in fund­ing, that was in­evitable in the cur­rent cli­mate and ev­ery coun­cil is Wales is facing cuts, but this set­tle­ment is dis­ap­point­ing news for Den­bighshire.

“We now face choices on core ser­vices that we never imag­ined we would have to make, but that is the re­al­ity of the po­si­tion.”

Along with Flintshire and An­gle­sey, Conwy County Bor­ough Coun­cil is set to have its set­tle­ment amount re­duced by 1%. The pro­vi­sional fig­ures mean they’ll re­ceive £1.54 mil­lion less than last st year.

Conwy Coun­cil leader er Cllr Gareth Jones said: “The set­tle­ment is de­press­ing and dis­ap­point­ing. Coun­cils are be­ing asked to pro­vide de more and more ser­vices es with less and less, year in, n, year out. Th­ese con­tin­ued d cuts don’t just threaten n our valu­able work but do lit­tle to help peo­ple and d threaten the fab­ric of f Welsh life.

“When it comes to o de­ter­min­ing any set­tle­ment, hav­ing an older pop­u­la­tion and be­ing a ru­ral area ac­tu­ally works against ainst us, as the Welsh Government ment tends to in­ject the cash in n areas with younger pop­u­la­tions. s. This is counter-pro­duc­tive as we e need to be pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble le ser­vice for all of the peo­ple of Conwy, re­gard­less of age or need. We want to sup­port the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety but are be­ing asked to do that whilst cuts con­tin­u­ally rain down on us. “The de­mand on our so­cial care ser­vices is in­creas­ing but the fund­ing within the set­tle­ment doesn’t re­flect that – our pleas are fall­ing on deaf ears.” Gwynedd Coun­cil are set to get £1.328 mil­lion less than they did last year, which will lead to ‘se­vere cuts’ ac­cord­ing to coun­cil leader, Cllr Dyfrig Sien­cyn. He said: “The Welsh Government has been warned by coun­cils a across Wales that this draft set­tle­men set­tle­ment will re­sult in se­vere cuts in vi­tal s ser­vices to our cit­i­zens and our c com­mu­ni­ties. This will have a d di­rect ef­fect on the lives and w well-be­ing of the peo­ple of Gw Gwynedd but we will do our ut­most to pro­tect tho those in great­est need. ““The re­spon­si­bil­ity for th th­ese cuts lies with W Welsh Government M Min­is­ters who claim th they have done their b best for lo­cal ser­vices, bu but their ac­tions speak ot oth­er­wise. They have ch cho­sen not to sup­port loc lo­cal ser­vices in full kno knowl­edge of the con­se­quences. Isle of An­gle­sey County Counc Coun­cil faces ‘ tremen­dous fi­nan­cia fi­nan­cial pres­sures’ due to the ££961,000961,000 de­crease in the pro­posed set­tle­ment of­fer from last year. An­gle­sey Coun­cil Leader, Cllr Lli­nos Medi, said, “We face tremen­dous fi­nan­cial pres­sures this year – in­clud­ing the cost of the pay rises for staff and teach­ers; a need to en­sure that the Coun­cil pays more than the na­tional liv­ing wage; fi­nanc­ing teacher pen­sion costs as the em­ployer’s con­tri­bu­tion has risen from 16.48% to 23.6%; an in­crease of 5.67% in the Fire Ser­vice levy and the pres­sures in our Chil­dren’s Ser­vice and Canol­fan Ad­dysg y Bont.

“Th­ese pres­sures will in­crease our costs by £6.5 mil­lion dur­ing 2019/20.

“With a cut in the grant we get from the Welsh Government, the fi­nan­cial gap we face – be­fore any ser­vice cuts or rais­ing Coun­cil Tax – is £7.1 mil­lion.

“An­gle­sey Coun­cil there­fore has no op­tion but to make sig­nif­i­cant cuts across a num­ber of ser­vices and we will have to raise Coun­cil Tax.”

A Welsh Government spokesper­son said: “We have worked hard to of­fer lo­cal government the best set­tle­ment pos­si­ble in this ninth year of aus­ter­ity and have made fur­ther al­lo­ca­tions to mit­i­gate most of the re­duc­tion coun­cils had been ex­pect­ing fol­low­ing the fi­nal bud­get last year.

“The core rev­enue fund­ing we pro­vide to lo­cal government each year is dis­trib­uted ac­cord­ing to rel­a­tive need, us­ing a for­mula which is agreed with ev­ery lo­cal author­ity in Wales via the Welsh Lo­cal Government As­so­ci­a­tion, and takes ac­count of a wealth of in­for­ma­tion about the de­mo­graphic, phys­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics of au­thor­i­ties, which can change from year to year.

“We have fully funded a floor so no author­ity has to man­age a re­duc­tion greater than one per cent.”

Welsh Lo­cal Government Min­is­ter Alun Davies

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