TEMPERS flared in the Senedd yesterday, Wednesday, as AMs butted heads with the Welsh Government’s local government secretary over over funding for councils.

Last month it was revealed councils £4.2 billion will be handed out for councils next year – a decrease of 0.3 per cent on this year.

Councils in Gwent will face budget cuts of up to £1.3 million next year - with Monmouthshire County Council one of only five in Wales to face the maximum possible cut of one per cent.

Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent councils will both see their budgets drop by 0.5 per cent. Although Newport and Torfaen councils will see their allocations increase by 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively, these represent real-terms cuts when inflation in taken into account.

And local government and public services secretary Alun Davies - who was faced with calls to resign last month after comparing council leaders to Oliver Twist begging for more - was faced with a barrage of criticism from the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru on Wednesday.

Tory AMs said some of the £550 million extra for Wales announced in chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn budget last week.

And Conservative AM Mark Isherwood accused Mr Davies of holding an “adversarial position” towards local authorities and said the formula used to assess how much is allocated to each council should be reviewed, calling the current arrangement “not fit for purpose”.

“The Welsh Conservatives have been calling for a review for years, but all the Welsh Government has done is divert the blame on to local authorities and tinkered around the edges, he said.

But Mr Davies said the formula is reviewed annually, saying: “Conservative leaders take part in that.

“Now, if they wish to ask for a fundamental root and branch review of the sort which you have described, then they are able to do so. Except, of course, they do not do that when they are in the meetings having these conversations.”

Plaid Cymru’s Dai Lloyd also grilled Mr Davies over the issue, saying: “Do you accept that local government has suffered in funding priorities compared to other portfolios here? ‘Hard times for these times’, as Dickens would say.”

Blaenau Gwent AM Mr Davies replied: “The Welsh Labour Government is not a Welsh Government that seeks to pursue a policy of austerity.

“That is not what we seek to do.

“What we want to be able to do is to fund local government, and other public services, properly, to enable us to deliver the high-quality services that we all want to see.

“But it is not credible to come to this place and argue that we can increase local government funding whilst not cutting funding elsewhere. And if the member is arguing that we should change completely the budget, then he’s welcome to make that argument, and I look forward to him telling me where he would want to make the cuts.”