GWENT councils are bracing themselves to slash an extra £33.6 million from their budgets after Welsh Government warned of a further cut to local authority funding.
Yesterday Newport council revealed it was withdrawing its medium-term financial plan and planning to find an extra £8 million in savings in 2014/15, on top of £4.9 million worth of cuts it expected to make next year, bringing their total to almost £13 million.
Earlier this month 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.
Caerphilly council tops the list of Gwent authorities with the highest potential shortfall, revealing an estimated rise of £17.7 million in cuts, up from £13.4 million to a potential £30.1 million.
Monmouthshire council expect to have to find an extra £2.2 million, up from £2.3 million to between £4.5 and £5 million; Torfaen predict they’ll have to find an extra £2.8 million, up from £10.2 million to £13 million; while Blaenau Gwent is likely to slash an extra £2.9 million from its budgets, up from £4.8 million to £7.7 million.
Cllr Phil Murphy, cabinet member for finance said: “It’s going to get very, very difficult indeed. All local authorities are in a position where we have got to ask the question, is there a different way to do this service to avoid making a cut?”
The deputy leader of Newport council, Cllr Ray Truman said for local government the financial situation is “showing no sign of getting any easier.” and in fact the position is worsening.
“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,” he said.
In recent years Newport council has cut its budget by £58 million, 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.
At Tuesday’s Newport council meeting, leader of the opposition Cllr David Fouweather said social services could face further cuts if Welsh Government grant funding was squeezed any more.
This morning the council’s head of finance sent out a memo to all councillors, seen by the Argus, briefing them on further budget cuts.
Cllr David Fouweather said it was “obvious” his comments had “hit a nerve with this Labour administration.”
He said: “They need to ensure that social services stays within budget so that the vulnerable in society can be properly protected.”
A council spokeswoman responded: “The council remains committed to improving the lives of Newport residents by providing the best affordable services, and recognises the challenge it faces with a potential cut of nearly £13 million to next year’s budget.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said the local government minister wrote to councils last month to provide “as much clarity as possible” on future cuts and said the information sent to council leaders will allow them “time to engage with local people before making what we appreciate are likely to be difficult decisions”.