Council cuts could be 'disastrous' - Newport leader
Updated 8:18am Tuesday 8th July 2014 in Gwent news
COUNCIL leaders are set for a collision course with the Welsh Government, with Newport leader Bob Bright warning proposed cuts could be "disastrous".
The Welsh Government has indicated that councils across the country could be facing budget cuts as deep as 4.5 per cent next year, more than twice as much as previously envisaged.
Top Torfaen Council officers warned that if this becomes a reality the authority could have to make more than £6 million in savings from April – some £2.7 million more than expected – and that jobs could be hit.
Local authorities had been expecting a 1.5 per cent cut in Welsh Government funding for 2015/16, but the Welsh Government has indicated councils should now plan for cuts of up to 4.5 per cent.
Yesterday Newport council leader Bob Bright told the council’s cabinet meeting that the proposed 4.5 per cent reduction was a “disastrous forecast”, and said 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.”
Meanwhile Torfaen’s cabinet is to meet today to discuss the proposed cuts, with a report saying that predictions from the Welsh Government can’t be relied on for the 2015/16 financial year, which starts in April.
The report from Torfaen's Nigel Aurelius, assistant chief executive, and David Lilly, head of financial services, says the local government minister Lesley Griffiths advised all councils that they should plan for a so-called “range of challenging settlements beyond 2015/16”.
The officers describe the “stark choices this will mean for this and all councils in terms of services”, warning it may affect employment levels.
Last month Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox said it is clear “things are going to get a whole lot worse.”
He had said: “What is really, really worrying for leaders is that we can expect absolutely massive cuts above what we’ve been expecting.”
The Welsh Government is having to making cuts in the money it provides to public services because the money it receives from the UK Government is being trimmed away.
It is not clear what each authority will receive yet from officials in Cardiff Bay but the rates may well vary between them.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The WLGA[Welsh Local Government Association] acknowledges local government in Wales has been protected from the worst of the public spending cuts, which is in contrast to the deep cuts faced in England for the past four years.
“No one should doubt the high value Welsh Ministers place on public services and in the current financial climate, effective forward planning will be crucial in ensuring citizens can continue to receive these services.
“The information sent to local authority leaders will allow them time to engage with local people before making what we appreciate are likely to be difficult decisions.”