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Expect cuts to road repairs and street lighting, says council

Created on 09/01/2019 @ 14:08
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By MyNewtown and Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Street lighting, library services and road repairs are all facing drastic cuts as Powys County Council says it is facing its worst funding cuts.

It says discretionary services will be hit as it seeks to make the most of its budget, meaning street lights in parts of Newtown could be switched off and roads with pot holes could be left awaiting repair and resurfacing.

The council blames what it says is the poorest funding settlement in Wales for nine out of the past 10 years, meaning that even a hefty council tax increase will not prevent further spending cuts and the possible loss of local services.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Aled Davies said: “The reality facing the council is that not even a significant increase in the rate of council tax will prevent a number of valued services including libraries, roads and street lighting face reductions.

“While no decisions have yet been made, our ability to reduce spending is severely restricted by the proportion of our budget that is needed to support statutory services such as education and social care. These services account for more than 70 per cent of our spending and although they are not exempt from cuts it is inevitable that non-statutory areas will come under the greatest pressure.

“We will have to ask ourselves can we afford the branch libraries we operate, the number of offices and buildings we fund. Will we have to reduce the length of roads we repair, the number of street lights we power and the number of open spaces we maintain.

“As a council we are facing some of the most challenging decisions of our political lives, decisions that I am sure will be unpopular. But, we have to set a balanced budget and the continued reduction in our external funding means we have little choice.

“We have a difficult task ahead of us balancing the level of council tax against the level of service provision. It will not be easy and we hope that residents understand our choices and accept our decision,” he added.

Opposition groups attacked the plans.

Liberal Democrat and Green group leader Cllr James Gibson- Watt: “The attempt to lay the blame for the county council’s financial problems on the settlements it has received from Welsh Government is ridiculous and unworthy.

“It ignores the fact that he and his colleagues have failed to control persistent overspending in a number of council departments.

“It also ignores the fact that the tight financial settlements for local government across Wales are a direct result of severe restrictions of funding to local government in England by his Conservative colleagues in the UK Government.

“This has had a very adverse consequential effect on the block grant devolved from Westminster to the Welsh Government in Cardiff, which has done its best to protect Welsh local government and the vital services it provides.”

Plaid Cymru group leader Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said:  “The situation is a disaster for Powys.

“We have a Conservative Westminster Government with an austerity agenda and a Welsh Government that seems to forget large swathes of Wales and a local authority which historically has lacked vision and strategic thinking thus cumulating in the current disaster.

“With reserves going down, the increasing funding challenges within education, the huge pressures within social services I fear for the sustainability of Powys Council in a couple years time, and it is not tenable to pile the pressure on our rate payers."

The budget will be decided towards the end of February.

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