WLGA has today welcomed a “positive” settlement for councils next year which will see councils receive the first significant increase in their core grant funding in over 12 years.
Councils will get a 4.3% boost in the block funding which is annually allocated to them by Welsh Government to help maintain local services. Extra capital funding has also been made available for investment in infrastructure.
Local services have shouldered cuts of over £1bn since the onset of austerity in 2010, meaning that councils have had to carefully prioritise and take extremely difficult decisions. Although next year’s settlement provides some breathing space for local authorities, the financial outlook remains very challenging. Councils will have to continue to make tough decisions to prioritise services, including council tax increases to help meet the funding shortfall.
Councillor Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader and Labour Group Leader said:
“As the new Leader of the WLGA I welcome this exceptionally good finance settlement. I am pleased that our positive engagement with the Welsh Government has paid dividends for our services, for our workforce, and for our residents. Throughout this year we have met with a number of Ministers who have listened carefully to what we had to say and have recognised the damaging effect that austerity has had on local services and frontline workers.
“I would like to personally thank the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans, and the First Minister, Mark Drakeford. They have clearly shown a commitment to local government. Vital local services are essential to prevent keep people well and out of hospital waiting rooms, and it is crucial that those services receive the funding that they need.”
Councillor Anthony Hunt (Torfaen), WLGA Finance Spokesperson said:
“Local government shares the same priorities with Welsh Government. Leaders across Wales will be doing everything in their power to ensure that funding is directed towards schools to improve education outcomes, and towards social care to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities receive the care they deserve.
“Councils have carefully managed their budgets throughout austerity, making efficiency savings year after year. After a decade of deep and damaging cuts, we were rapidly reaching breaking point. I hope this settlement marks the start of a completely different journey”
Councillor Peter Fox (Monmouthshire), WLGA Conservative Group Leader said:
“I am disappointed with this settlement. The UK Government gave sufficient resource to the Welsh Government to do significantly better than this and they have failed local government in Wales again. Furthermore, we yet again see massive distortions in the funding received by some councils in comparison to others. A differential between 3% and 5.4% is ridiculous in current times. Something needs to be done to address this variation.”
Councillor Emlyn Dole (Carmarthenshire), WLGA Plaid Cymru Group Leader said:
“The positive settlement today recognises the challenges faced by local authority budgets in terms of workforce and demographic pressures. The additional £184m is a welcome increase after years of real terms reductions. It does not cover all the pressures and local authorities will still be faced with tough decisions and will need to carefully consider how council tax will bridge remaining gaps in budgets.
“It will not completely reverse the £1bn that has been taken from core funding since 2009-10, but I hope that this is the beginning of a different trend. We have lost around 37,000 jobs in local government since 2009-10 which includes teachers and other frontline officers. No leader comes into politics to make these kinds of decisions. With the funding that has now been made available we can start to protect our core services especially schools and social services.”
Councillor Hugh Evans OBE (Denbighshire), WLGA Independent Group Leader said:
“The is the best settlement local government has seen since 2007-2008 and marks a step change in the grant funding that local government receives. To properly plan for the future and to give our residents more certainty, councils need a more robust multiyear financial framework so that we can properly address prevention and early intervention in a longer-term context.
“Next year’s Spending Review will offer an opportunity to address that and I look forward to discussions with Welsh Government around more flexibilities so that we can find sustainable long-term solutions to local finances. I am also concerned about the variation across all local authorities and will be looking to find ways in which this can be addressed.”