Steve Thomas, Chief Executive of the Welsh Local Government Association, says the IFS report into public finances shows that the next decade will mean unprecedented change in local government services.
Over a third of council tenants affected by the bedroom tax in areas of Wales have fallen behind on their rent, according to figures released by the TUC today.
Figures obtained by the False Economy campaign reveal across Britain over 50,000 council housing tenants have fallen behind on their rent since the reform was introduced in April – nearly a third of all tenants affected by the tax in the 114 local authorities that provided data.
However in some parts of Wales, the proportion of council housing tenants in arrears has been far higher.
In Wrexham and Anglesey, almost half of all council house tenants (44%) affected by the bedroom tax have been pushed into arrears since April.
In Swansea, 38% of tenants in the city affected by the tax have fallen behind on their rent and in Cardiff, 616 families have experienced difficulties.
Wales TUC has welcomed the Welsh Government’s Smaller Properties Programme announced in August which provided £20 million in funding to help with the provision of smaller affordable homes.
Reacting to the figures Wales TUC National Officer, Julie Cook said,
“Today’s depressing news provides further proof that the Bedroom Tax is pushing families into complete despair. Disabled people who need space for their carers and families, and who have nowhere else to move, are being put at risk of debt and homelessness by the tax."
A spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said any attempts to change the way Chief Executives and other senior officers are paid could lead to employment tribunals and put off talented staff taking up key roles in Wales.
– WLGA spokesperson
In the last analysis the legality of this proposal could be subject to judicial challenge and we would expect local government to be fully consulted and involved in any proposals which may impact on remuneration in the sector. The main question must be, has the National Assembly fully considered the wider implications of this proposal in terms of equal pay and the potential ramifications it might have on all council employees in Wales?
The organisation that represents councils in Wales says that council tax will rise by an average of 2.9% in the coming year. The WLGA says this will mean that households in Wales will pay over £200 less on average than those in England. The increase will work out on average at £27 over a year.
This prediction is based on a survey of councils across Wales, although not all councils have yet finalised their budgets.
In England council tax is expected to rise by an average of 1.1% according to the the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
– Cllr Aaron Shotton, WLGA Finance Spokesperson
Welsh councils are seeking to maintain their efforts to keep council tax rates down as low as possible, but it is inevitable that bills will rise given the current economic circumstances. Local government is experiencing unprecedented financial pressures due to the poor economic climate, real terms cuts to grant funding and UK Government reform of the Welfare state. Our focus is on getting the balance right for our citizens.
- Anglesey - 5%
- Gwynedd - 3.5%
- Conwy - 3.88%
- Denbighshire - 2%
- Flintshire - 3%
- Wrexham - 2.75%
- Powys - 2.75%
- Ceredigion - 3%
- Pembrokeshire - 2.95%
- Carmarthenshire - 3%
- Swansea - 3.8%
- Neath Port Talbot - 3.87%
- Bridgend - 3.5%
- Vale of Glamorgan - 4.8%
- Rhondda Cynon Taff - 3.95%
- Merthyr Tydfil - 3.2%
- Caerphilly - 2.35%
- Blaenau Gwent - 4.6%
- Torfaen - 3.35%
- Monmouthshire - no change
- Newport - 3.5%
- Cardiff - no change
Gaynor James, who runs a youth cafe in Blaenau Gwent, says some children are slipping through the net.
David Swallow, the ex-headmaster of Barry Comprehensive, says schools need support.
The Welsh Local Government Association says councils should not lose control of schools. The WLGA has responded to the review announced by the Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, saying that although there are major issues, LEAs are functioning 'to an optimum level' to serve pupils' interests.
The WLGA is vehemently opposed to any proposal that suggests education should be taken out of local authority control. This will fundamentally damage the principle of local democratic control and accountability, and undermine the ability of local communities to shape the educational future of young people.
– Cllr Bob Wellington, Welsh Local Government Association
The WLGA is already working closely and positively with the Education Minister, who has met the 22 leaders on numerous occasions and only last week addressed the 22 Cabinet Members for Education across Wales. The Association has fully agreed with the major elements of the Ministers 20 action points and has indeed met many of its obligations including the delegation of 80% funding to schools, the banding of schools and the establishment of four School Improvement Consortia.
Plaid Cymru's Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas has claimed that the review of how schools are run is an admission of the failure of consecutive Labour ministers to ensure high standards. He added that it is wrong only to blame the local education authorities.
It is widely agreed that educational standards across Wales need to be improved and I am glad that the Minister has opened this debate. The announcement is an admission that Labour has let down children and young people over the years and it is to be welcomed that the Minister is now taking steps to address this. However, I have warned the Minister that holding a consultation after an internal review group has met is too late. To have a fully open discussion we need a full consultation up-front.
– Plaid Cymru Education Spokesperson Simon Thomas AM
My biggest concern with this announcement is that the Welsh Government could be using education as a wedge to drive through local government reform. Education cannot be used as an experiment on how reform can be delivered, and in this respect I think that is approach is not the best one. A Party of Wales Government is committed to improving the standard of education throughout Wales but the approach needs to be a balance between leadership from the Welsh Government and local accountability.
Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM has claimed that Leighton Andrews' announcement is 'an astonishing admission of failure'. She accused the Education Minister of a blame game, that he was saying poor standards in schools were the fault of everyone but the Welsh Government.
Labour Education Ministers have been running the Welsh education system for 15 years and must take responsibility for declining standards. Welsh Conservatives have lobbied for years for direct funding of schools to eliminate waste and deliver more cash to schools. While we welcome the Minister’s consideration of direct funding, his other plans suggest creeping centralisation of power in his hands at the expense of schools and local authorities.
Given how poor Labour’s policies and performance have been to date, we must question whether further centralisation really is the best way forward. Instead of blaming others and threatening to emasculate local authorities and centralise control, the Minister should co-operate constructively with councils and schools to share best practice and promote collaboration.
– Shadow Education Minister Angela Burns AM
We have massive problems of underperformance in our education system, but we need a level-headed evidence-based approach to driving up standards not a bull in a china shop.