LAST week’s budget settlement for local authorities was more tough news for those of us trying to keep local services running.

In Torfaen, it means we face a cash cut of over £1million next year.

So with inflationary pressures, we’ll have to plug a gap of nearly £4million, on top of over £50million of savings already made over the past seven years. Sooner or later, something has to give.

 Austerity is bad news for the local services people value. It’s also bad news for local council tax payers, as it means people end up paying more for less. In Torfaen, we get around 15 per cent of our funding through council tax. Most of the rest comes from government grants, so if these get cut, pressure is put on council tax and services suffer.

 We will, of course, do everything we can to be more and more efficient. We already work together with neighbouring councils to provide many services jointly to save money and improve quality, and we will continue to explore other opportunities. But that alone will not solve the problem.

 We understand that, thanks to the UK government’s continuing austerity agenda, the Welsh Government are in a difficult position. But each year gets harder, as you can’t repeat savings.

After seven years of austerity, the options available to councils to save money whilst preserving services are running out. If we want public services as we know them to survive, the UK government must end austerity.

 Of course, the tough times don’t mean we should forget the need to be compassionate. That’s why I was pleased to support Cllr Colette Thomas’ motion in council yesterday on council tax exemptions for young care leavers.

This is a good way to use a very limited amount of money to help a group of people who’ve often had a very difficult start in life, helping them on the way to independence.

 As a council, we’ve acted on issues like this wherever possible – for example ending child burial fees. We’re also trying to look more at how we can help improve peoples’ lives and prevent costly pressure on public services by targeting funds on prevention and early intervention.

 The fire and rescue service do this well, working in the community to spread awareness of fire risks and prevention – something which as well as saving lives, saves money in the long term. It is a principle

the rest of the public sector should take to heart.