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Expect more cuts in council services

Created on 10/10/2018 @ 13:54
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By Elgan Hear, Local Democracy Reporter and MyNewtown Reporter

A one per-cent funding cut will put Powys County Council services under “severe pressure” according to leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris.

Cllr Harris was reacting to the news from the Welsh Government which announced details of its draft budget settlement for 2019/20.

Montgomeryshire AM, Russell George, said the news exposed "cronyism of the highest order" highlighting how Labour-controlled councils in South Wales had an increase in settlements, while those in Mid and North Wales faced reductions.

Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services, announced that overall council funding will be cut by 0.3%, to £4.21 billion.

Powys, along with along with the Isle of Anglesey, Conwy, Flintshire and Monmouthshire, received the joint poorest settlement in Wales

This comes on top of the 0.4 per cent cut to this year’s budget.

Cllr Harris said: “Council services are already under severe financial pressure in the county so news of another one per cent cut will do little to ease the financial strain.

“Once again the county finds itself at the bottom of the funding table and will face difficult decisions as it tries to balance levels of service delivery against the council’s ability to pay for them.

“The council has reduced spending by £41 million over the past four years and was already facing a further £13 million reduction for 2019/20.

“Today’s provisional settlement will only increase pressure on the council’s ability to deliver public services.”

Earlier today, (Tuesday, October 9), the Cabinet reviewed the Financial Position knowing that nearly £8 million in cuts is needed to balance the books.

A review of where to find savings and freeze department spending had been announced at a cabinet meeting in September, but that work has not started  yet.

Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies, was asked the question by leader Cllr Harris: “How confident are we that the savings will be achieved by March?”

Cllr Davies said: “Putting right the mistakes of the past is a costly process.”

“Clearly in some areas it’s going to be challenging, expected savings will still leave us with a £5.8 million overspend.

“We hope to see the work take effect by the next report.”

Mr George said: “Every council in Mid and North Wales receives a cut in funding whereas Labour-run South Wales councils get an increase. This is cronyism of the highest order and iniquitous by anyone’s standards.
“For well over a decade, Powys County Council has received one of the worst local government funding settlements from the Welsh Government of all 22 local authorities in Wales.
“Powys will now have to find additional savings and people will be asking why difficult decisions are having to be made to reduce or even withdraw their valued public services or increase council tax.  Responsibility must lie squarely at the door of Welsh Labour Lib-Dem  Government."
He added: “The current system provides councils in urban south Wales with far more attractive financial settlements while the largest, most rural councils such as Powys are among those with the worst cash settlements. This exposes a fundamental weakness in the funding formula which has been in much need of reform for many years.

"The formula which is used to calculate funding for local authorities in Wales needs to be reformed as it doesn’t properly take into account the challenges of delivering vital public services over large rural areas of Mid Wales.
“The Welsh Labour Lib-Dem Government are failing rural Mid Wales. The ongoing year on year funding cut to Powys County Council is causing real  damage to local services in Powys.”

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