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Welsh council funding has reached ‘tipping point’ – WLGA

Council leaders in Wales believe a ‘tipping point’ may have been reached after the government revealed funding cuts averaging 3.4%.

Public services minister Leighton Andrews announced that total funding through the Revenue Support Grant for councils totals £4.124bn, which represents a decrease of 3.4% on what they received last year on a like for like basis. 

He said: “The settlement I am announcing today is challenging but this is a consequence of the large-scale budget reductions being imposed by the UK government. The Welsh government’s budget for 2015-16 will be around 10% lower in real terms compared with 2010-11.”

Andrews added that to limit the impact felt by councils he was putting in place a “damping” mechanism so that no “authority will see a year on year reduction of more than 4.5%”. 

But the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) stated that a cut of almost £150m to their budget in 2015-16 means they will be forced to reduce many “treasured local services now and into the future”.

During his announcement, Andrews said he was providing an additional £10m for local social services to help maintain the long-term success of the health service in Wales. He also plans to “protect” school funding in line with the government’s commitment to provide an increase in resources at 1% above the overall change in the Welsh Budget. 

In addition, the Settlement provides £244m for a Council Tax Reduction Scheme for all eligible applicants. “Local Authorities must take account of the effect of the scheme in making decisions about their council tax levels,” Andrews said.

The WLGA, however, stated that the announcement of an “extra” £10m for social services barely accounts for a fifth of the overall cost of demographic pressures that already exist in the system. Neither does it make up for the cut of the £50m of the Intermediate Care Fund. “Social services are effectively £90m down already,” the Association added.

Andrews had stated that local services have been protected in Wales more than its English counterparts between 2010 and 2013, but the WGLA says this does not mean that services have not been cut over the period.

Cllr Bob Wellington CBE, leader of the WLGA said: “Councils in Wales have not shied away from difficult decisions. They have already been forced to deliver a wide range of cost saving measures, often in the face of strong but understandable public opposition.

“Within the latest Welsh government budget, local councils have once again been asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the austerity burden, and it is time for politicians at all levels to be honest about what this actually means for the communities we serve.”

Cllr Aaron Shotton, WLGA deputy leader and spokesperson for Finance, added that the current system for funding local councils is broken.

“It is high time for all those involved in public policy in Wales to address this, and the WLGA is calling for the establishment of an Independent Commission on Local Government Finance to examine the sustainability of council funding into the future,” he said.

To see the provisional breakdown document, and the annual change for unitary authorities, click here.

(Image: c. GeeHock)

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