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Welsh council with ‘little choice’ but to cut services in the face of £10m deficit

A Welsh council is facing a £10.5m budget blackhole on top of millions of savings already planned, with the unfunded pay award for teachers one of the reasons behind the growing deficit.

Vale of Glamorgan Council has set out its initial budget for 2019-20, with the authority needing to plug a deficit of just under £10.5m, and is considering a number of changes and cuts to its services.

Along with many local authorities in Wales struggling financially, Vale of Glamorgan council will need to make these savings on top of £3.8m already planned.

The council’s leader John Thomas said that without more funding from the government, they had “little choice” but to withdraw services.

He said: “The financial position of all local authorities in Wales is now dire.

“In the Vale we have a track record of exceptionally prudent financial management. Despite this, a decade of cuts leaves us facing a budget shortfall that simply cannot be met without looking at the services we provide.”

One of the key decisions for the council is how it is going to fund a new national pay award for teachers, with schools likely to take the brunt of the cuts.

In July, the UK Government announced a 3.5% pay rise for teachers’ pay in England and Wales, followed by a 5% increase in employer’s contribution to teacher’s pensions which was “lacking an explanation of how this would be paid for.”

The council says the pay award equates to a £1.8m cut, and its cabinet member for learning and skills, Bob Penrose, said they could only meet the increased costs of thousands of teaching positions by cutting services elsewhere.

He said: “Teachers in the Vale of Glamorgan do first class work, something that was clear to all when the Vale recorded some of the best exam results in the country this summer.

“There is no question that they deserve fair pay for their efforts, but forcing schools to find pay increases from budgets that are already stretched to breaking point is to in effect cut their funding even further.”

The comments follow a cautioning from the Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW) about the acute pressures faced by schools, who warned that governing bodies will be forced to cut teaching jobs and school’s budgets on a huge scale without UK Government funding.

The ADEW’s chair Aled Evans said that “with schools having to shoulder growing financial pressures,” councils have no choice but to “make extremely tough decisions which will inevitably impact on how education is delivered in Wales.”

He said: “To avert a potential disaster in Welsh schools, it is imperative that education is prioritised when this funding comes down the M4 to the Welsh Treasury.”

Image - Vale of Glamorgan Council 

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