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The crisis facing Welsh councils

This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post

Pleas from Welsh Councils for more cash has been a standard since I first got involved in politics over 35 years ago.

It is fair to say though that the budget situation since the 2008 crash has been harder. All councils have had to make deep cuts whilst seeking to protect key frontline services, to the extent that there is now very little fat, if any at all, that can be carved out of budgets.

This has been made worse by the additional pressures being put on council budgets by an aging population and the impact of public service cuts elsewhere, as well as welfare benefit changes. Although it has to be said that Wales has fared much better than England in terms of council funding.

Many Welsh councils are struggling to balance the books whilst delivering statutory services. Ministers have warned some may go bankrupt. Why then has the Welsh Government made matters worse with its latest budget settlement?

The Welsh Government has received an extra £370 million from Westminster, a real term increase of 1%. And yet, instead of passing on a similar uplift to councils, it has actually cut their budgets by 1.8%.

As a result, key services will face cuts, whilst there will be additional pressure on the health service because of the lack of funding for social care. That will eat up the extra money being given to health.

For once Ministers cannot blame the UK Government. They need to rethink this funding settlement.

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