THE true picture of the cuts Newport council has to make next year has been revealed this morning, with council officers facing an extra £8 million to find and possibly whole services cut, the deputy leader has warned.
In June the Argus reported how Welsh Government told councils across the country that they could face funding cuts as deep as 4.5 per cent in 2015/16, more than twice the previous estimate.
Despite this, deputy leader of Newport council, Cllr Ray Truman this morning insisted that the council was "not expecting" to find that it must save almost £13 million next year, on top of £4.9million-worth of cuts already identified.
"The council was in a good position to be able to deliver those (savings) thanks to its medium term financial planning," said a statement released by the council, which describes a "bleak financial future" and "worsening financial forecast".
"However, new information from the Welsh Government has indicated that the grant they will give the council will reduce by up to 4.5 per cent in cash terms instead of the 1.5 per cent originally anticipated.
"This means the council will have to redraw its medium term financial plan to deliver a further £8 million of savings on top of the £4.9 million - a total of £12.9 million to be found for the next financial year."
Earlier this month Newport council leader Bob Bright told a cabinet meeting that the proposed 4.5 per cent reduction was a “disastrous forecast”, and that financial plans had been “thrown to the wind” by the changing position.
“We were told we were having a reduction of 1.5 per cent but it could be twice that,” he said. “Even a layperson could realise that is a difficult situation to manage.”
This year, the council has cut its budget by £8 million on top of £50 million cut in the previous few years, with the Welsh Government grant accounting for more than 80 per cent of the council’s net funding. Council tax makes up 19 per cent.
Deputy leader of Newport council, Cllr Ray Truman said today that for local government the financial situation is showing no sign of getting any easier, and "in fact the position is worsening".
“Newport council will have to make some extremely difficult decisions over the next few months about which services it will continue to deliver," he warned.
"We are placed in this position because of continuing UK government austerity measures and the knock-on effect for Welsh Government which provides the largest share of local government funding.”
He described savings already made by the council as "significant", which in some instances has involved stopping services the authority "can no longer afford", said Cllr Truman.
"More difficult and significant decisions will be required now," he said.
“It is a harsh financial reality we are facing and one the council and our residents were not expecting but one we have to prepare for."
Preliminary work to identify potential savings has already begun, said the council's statement.
It said: "Over the coming weeks and months, the council will also be explaining the position to residents and staff in more detail as well as seeking their ideas on how the council can meet these considerable challenges."
The Argus reported in September how the council may have to save £34 million in total by 2017.