Welsh Government announces council funding cuts

Welsh councils get £146m less to spend in 2015

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Tories warn of Welsh council tax rises

Eric Pickles claims Labour's actions in Wales are a warning to England Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The Conservatives are accusing the Welsh Government of actively encouraging big council tax rises next year. The tax has been frozen by the Scottish and Westminster governments but annual increases are allowed in Wales, where tax levels have historically been lower. The UK minister for English local government, Eric Pickles, claims that what's happening in Wales is a warning to voters in England.

Labour haven't learnt their lesson. If anyone needs an example of why Labour can’t be trusted with the interests of British people, this is it. After presiding over one of the worst economic crises in living memory, Labour’s answer to everything is still more borrowing, more spending and higher taxes.

– Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles MP

Welsh councils face an average cut of 3.4% in cash terms in their main source of income -the support grant from the Welsh Government. When he announced the cut, Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews refused to say by how much he expected the tax to rise. However, he told councils that the Welsh Government remains "flexible" about increases.

In setting council tax levels for 2015-16, I urge local authorities to think seriously about the funding challenges they face and to balance this with a consideration of the financial burden on households. We offer considerable flexibility to authorities in Wales which is not available to their counterparts in England, where restrictive freezes apply.

– Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews AM

Ultimately, Welsh council tax rises are nothing to do with the Westminster Government but it's inevitable that Conservative Ministers preparing to fight a General Election will make much of this issue as they have of comparisons between the Welsh and English health services.

  1. Nick Powell

Labour councils win 'dodgy' budget deal claim Tories

The Welsh Conservatives claim that there are signs of "dodgy budget manipulation" in the funding cuts faced by local councils. The Tories point out that eight of the ten councils with the smallest cuts in their money from the Welsh Government are Labour controlled.

The Labour Party seems to be protecting money for traditional Labour-voting heartlands ahead of the election instead of delivering a fair deal for every part of Wales. This appears to be a cynical and crude attempt to manipulate local government funding to force Conservative, Plaid Cymru and independent-run councils to make tougher choices between raising council tax and cutting services.

The figures speak for themselves. The ten councils with the best deal from the Welsh Labour Government are almost exclusively Labour-controlled, while councils led by other political parties are having their funding slashed.

– Shadow Local Government Minister Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Welsh Government sources point to the local government funding formula, which they see as being far from cynical or crude, although it's undeniably complicated. They draw attention to the so-called "damping" mechanism, which has protected from even deeper cuts three of the worst-hit councils -Ceredigion, Powys and Monmouthshire. They're led by Plaid Cymru, the independents and the Conservatives respectively.

They still face cuts of between 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, while the three with the smallest cuts -Labour controlled Neath Port Talbot, Newport and Merthyr Tydfil- lose between 2.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent. The largest single factor is that above-average increases in pupil numbers have had an even bigger impact than usual on this year's funding formula. That's because the money for schools is being increased despite cutbacks in overall council funding.


We're bottom of the pile say councils

The Welsh Local Government Association says key local services could start to disappear as as result of councils being placed "bottom of the funding pile" by the Welsh Government.

Spending on local public services has been placed firmly in reverse gear and returned to levels similar to those back in 2001. This means councils will be trying to respond to current levels of demand, and manage issues such as significant population growth, with the financial resources they had 14 to 15 years ago. The draft settlement for local government has slashed almost £150 million from our budgets at a single stroke.

– WLGA Finance Spokesman Cllr Aaron Shotton

The two biggest services in local government are education and social services. Together they account for over 65% of our total spend, and with Welsh Government insisting that education spend remains protected it is unavoidable that other services are being dismantled to fund this. The further budget cuts that will now need to be made within these smaller service areas will undoubtedly see many of them begin to fail completely in the future.

– Denbighshire Council Leader Hugh Evans

The WLGA also insists that the £10 million increase for social services is just a tenth of what's needed to cope with the effects of an ageing population and with cutbacks elsewhere. It says merging councils will do little to help as halving the number of councillors, chief executives and senior managers would save no more than £18 million, when councils face a shortfall of £900 million over the next three years.

Council funding to be announced by Welsh Government

How much funding the Welsh Government intend to allocate each local authority for 2015-16 is to be announced later by Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews.

Local councils still need to find savings in services like bin collections. Credit: PA.

It's expected that morecCouncils will face further cuts, continuing from last years' drop in funding.

Last year all of Wales' 22 councils had their budgets cut for the 2014-15 financial year.

Some councils fared worse than others, with Ceredigion, Denbighshire and Powys seeing the biggest reduction - 4.6% - to their annual budget.

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