MANY local authorities do not have realistic plans in place to make cuts as austerity continues to bite, according to a Wales Audit Office (WAO) report.

The WAO said that while councils have been able to meet financial challenges so far, cracks are beginning to show.

A new report published today by the Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, says many authorities don’t have robust arrangements in place to deliver so-called “efficiency savings”.

He said: “Local government in Wales now faces sharp reductions in funding. That is coupled with pressures from a growing, and ageing, population – with rising demands in areas such as social services, education and waste.

“All of this spells trouble for local authorities if they do not have robust, longer-term, strategies in place which are linked to medium term financial plans. Too many councils are falling short and running out of time.”

According to the report many councils in Wales do not have clear and realistic plans to deliver efficiency savings, and aren’t basing their plans on sound and appropriate financial information.

To date, councils have been able to meet their financial challenges and deliver their overall plan, the report says.

But more robust arrangements will be necessary as financial pressures increase.

The report cited Monmouthshire as being an example of good or promising practice, saying it has a good understanding of the cost pressures it faces and has good systems in place to frequently assess and review its financial performance.

Auditors say many councils don’t work well with others and don’t asses the potential impact of proposed savings or changes to services.

The report made six recommendations for improvement, including calling for councils to develop clear strategies, link plans to longer-term financial goals and explore more opportunities to work with other public services.