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Incoming ‘financial winter’ could mean 7,000 council job losses

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has warned that a “financial winter is coming” after a survey review of the 22 councils across Wales showed that local authorities had “run out of road.”

The WLGA’s key message from the council survey was that with funding cut by £1bn during eight years of austerity, cuts “grow more difficult and unpalatable” and despite saving efforts “the unthinkable becomes more likely.”

The report said that without extra financial backing, it is estimated that job losses will reach up to 7,000 in Wales, which would be a “massive blow” for individuals, families and communities across Wales.

Authorities are reporting financial issues with schools as severe as those around social care, that there is “a sense of fatigue and low morale amongst large parts of the workforce.”

Councils will only be able to achieve the forecasted savings needed over the next three years if they stop services, reduce school budgets, reduce social care and support for elderly and vulnerable, plus further cuts and a rise in council tax.

Steve Thomas, WLGA chief executive, said: “This year will be the ultimate test of all the Welsh Government’s commitments and promises in strategies such as ‘Prosperity for all,’ ‘A Healthier Wales,’ the Economic Action Plan and the ground-breaking ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.’

“All these documents stress the key role of investing in preventative services like social care, housing, leisure, environmental quality, economic development and transport. They stress the vital importance of these services in terms of well-being and keeping people out of hospitals.”

He continued: “The warning signs are everywhere with bankrupt councils in England pointing to the grim outcomes of sustained austerity which include heart-breaking cuts for services that the most vulnerable rely on.

“Council tax payers across Wales need respite and the best way for Welsh Government to do this is honour their words on prevention and properly fund local services”.

Thomas did say that £1.4bn of investment will be “coming down the M4” from the announcement of £20bn extra funding for the NHS in England, representing a 7% rise in funding for health services in Wales.

But he said that local government “may struggle to get a flat cash outcome with huge pressures to meet on pay, demographics and a crumbling public realm.”

In March this year, the Welsh government revealed plans to reduce the number of local authorities to just 10, making “larger, stronger” councils.

Cash-strapped councils in England are already facing significant budget deficits and have had to make major cuts to jobs and services.

Northamptonshire County Council’s £70m budget deficit has been the most widely reported after they were forced to issue their second section 114 notice banning all non-essential spending.

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Image credit - bagi1998


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