In advance of the draft Welsh Government budget due to be announced tomorrow, local councils are calling for an urgent investment into preventative local public services.
Having already implemented over £700 million of savings from their shrinking budgets since the onset of austerity, council leaders are calling on the Welsh Government to refocus its resources on local public services and to work closely with councils to avoid a repeat of the severe problems being faced by local government in England, particularly in areas such as social care.
Councillor Bob Wellington CBE (Torfaen), WLGA Leader said:
“While I recognise that the Welsh Government has offered a level of relative protection to local councils in Wales, they have not had an easy ride. Over recent years local councils have seen significant job losses, widespread scaling back of local service provision and a loss of many of the local facilities that our communities hold most dear.
“With councils facing the extremely daunting prospect of a £940million budget shortfall by 2020, the harsh reality is that if we continue with the level of funding reductions seen in recent years, we would quickly reach a tipping point at which vital local public services enter a cycle of terminal decline.
“Our call is for Welsh Government and local councils to work closely together, to change the rule book on how local public services are funded. I was encouraged to hear the First Minister comment last week about the role social care plays in supporting the NHS, and we need to acknowledge the vitally importantly contribution that council services make to alleviating the build-up of costly pressures elsewhere in the system, such as in our health services.
“An investment in local public services such as social care and education is an investment into the future wellbeing and health of communities in Wales, an investment that will reduce costs for our cherished but under pressure NHS, and an investment in the services that are most valued by our communities.”
The WLGA recently launched its ‘Localism 2016-21’ manifesto which offers a 40 point plan for public services in Wales. The plan is founded on the need to acknowledge the importance of preventative and public health services, as well as the need for councils to be offered greater control over their local budgets in the future.