The publication of the Welsh Government draft budget today confirms earlier fears that local public services will continue to face significant cuts and thousands of jobs will be lost.
Services like transport, public protection, culture, libraries and environmental services - the bread and butter services of our local communities - will continue to reduce, but the larger areas of social care and education will increasingly bear the weight of funding reductions, as budgets are squeezed further.
Councillor Anthony Hunt (Torfaen), WLGA Spokesperson for Finance and Resource said:
“The publication of the Welsh Government’s outline draft budget marks the ninth year in a row that councils have been left with significant budget shortfalls during the era of austerity. The scale of the financial challenge facing local services in 2019-20 is enormous, at £264m or around 5% of net spend. This includes the challenge of finding £159m for much needed pay rises for hard working staff, and many other pressures on local services. The challenge facing councils to keep vital local services like schools and social care running cannot be overstated. If austerity doesn’t end soon, public services as we know them will be a thing of the past.
“We are grateful for the extensive engagement of Cabinet Secretary for Finance and for his openness in recognising that this outcome does not meet the pressures faced by councils. I hope that dialogue continues as we move towards a final budget.
“However, we await the publication of the provisional settlement next week with trepidation. We recognise that things are tough for the Welsh Government thanks to austerity, but we want to work together with them to achieve a far better outcome for local services. This could be achieved with a more equitable distribution of any Barnett consequentials.
“Councils are looking to the Welsh Government to recognise that the preventative services we run, like social care, education and housing, should be at the heart of all budget allocations. That must include the commitment that we need to fund the whole health sector equally, not just the health service. This view was reinforced recently by the Future Generations Commissioner, who argued, “Now is the time for Welsh government to be bold in demonstrating they understand which services are important to keeping people well and preventing problems. Many of these are in local government, so budget allocations should reflect this’.”