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Welsh councils welcome £13m budget boost for next year, but warn pressures are far from over

Councils have welcomed the additional local authority resources announced this week by the Welsh Government, which will raise the funding floor and provide another £13m for core services – but warned that “this remains a particularly challenging financial settlement” after eight years of austerity.

Following “productive discussions” between the government and the Welsh LGA (WLGA), the administration committing to putting councils “at the front of the queue” for distributing money arising from this year’s Budget.

This will include raising the funding floor from -1% to -0.5% and, on top of this, an extra £13m to take the Welsh average to a flat cash settlement. This will result in more money for core services such as education and social care, two majorly at-risk sectors up and down the UK.

But Cllr Debbie Wilcox, leader of the WLGA, said that while the financial package is positive and signals “significant progress” in their ongoing deliberations prior to the finalisation of the Welsh Government this year, it is not a silver bullet.

“It demonstrates a concerted effort to offset the impact of austerity in Wales. Unfortunately, despite Westminster rhetoric, this failed philosophy is far from approaching its end game,” she argued.

“Therefore, this does not mean the avoidance of cuts or rises to council tax since funding increases do not meet the pressures and costs of key services in relation to pay, inflation or demographics. Despite this welcome announcement, there is no doubt that this remains a particularly challenging financial settlement after 8 years of austerity. In particular, schools and teachers’ pay pressures remain and a huge pension cost remains unresolved.”

The Welsh Government and WLGA are writing jointly to the UK Government to press for this to be fully funded by the Treasury. In the meantime, the association said it looks forward to further “constructive dialogue” with the country’s government to start identifying major service pressures ahead of next year’s budget-setting process.

This financial year will include a one-off package of £6m to meet costs associated with Storm Callum; £4m to meet social care pressures; £7.5m to help councils implement the teachers’ pay award; and another £50m to local government’s general capital fund.

Today’s £13m announcement will be added to the revenue support grant in 2019-20, at which point £1.2m will also be injected to help raise the funding floor.


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