ANGER OVER ‘OLIVER TWIST’ COMMENTS
Gwynedd council leader blasts Welsh Minister’s ‘puerile’ claims:
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