Accusation of 'tribalism' over council budget cuts rejected

Original by Ian Craig, South Wales Argus -…

ACCUSATIONS of political ‘tribalism’ over cuts to council budgets in Wales have been rebuffed.


On Tuesday it was revealed Gwent councils will be faced with cuts of up to £1.3 million next year.

Monmouthshire County Council, the only Conservative-controlled local authority in Gwent, is one of only five in Wales to receive the maximum possible budget cut of one per cent, or £936,000 next year.

Of the other four - Anglesey, Conwy, Powys and Flintshire - Labour is only in power in Flintshire, where it is in coalition with an Independent group.

And, speaking in the Assembly earlier today, Wednesday, Conservative AM Janet Finch-Saunders said the overall 0.3 per cent cut to council budgets “will not be shared equally and fairly amongst councils in Wales”.

“My own authority of Conwy has already had to make £48 million in savings over the past six years and are now looking to find £16 million just to stay in business," she said.

“Yet Rhondda Cynon Taf and Labour-run Cardiff have seen increases of 0.3 per cent. With £370 million coming from the UK Conservative Government to better fund our public services, many here in Wales consider this latest settlement to be a tribal and lazy approach by a Welsh Labour Government.

“What other excuse could you possibly provide for such an unfair and inequitable local government settlement?”

But finance secretary Mark Drakeford rejected her claim, saying: “(Ms Finch-Saunders) really should withdraw her accusation that the funding formula for local government in Wales is somehow tribal in nature.

“She knows that it is not.”

He added: “Welsh Government does not set the formula. It is set on expert advice and it is agreed by local government. The reason why Conwy has found a decrease in funding this year is because it has fewer people unemployed in its area than it did this time last year, it has fewer secondary school pupils than it did this time last year and it has fewer children claiming free school meals in its primary schools.

“There is nothing tribal about any one of those factors - they are all empirical measures.”

Both Labour-controlled Caerphilly and Independent-led Blaenau Gwent councils will see their budgets cut by 0.5 per cent - representing drops of £1.31 million and £528,000 respectively.

Although Newport and Torfaen councils, both controlled by Labour, will see their budgets increase by £336,000, or 0.2 per cent, and £151,000, or 0.1 per cent, respectively, both of these represent real-terms cuts when inflation is taken into account.