'Tribal' council funding claim rejected by Labour minister

Original by BBC News - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-45811492

A Conservative claim Welsh ministers deliberately gave Labour councils more money for next year have been dismissed by Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford.

 

Tory AM Janet Finch-Saunders contrasted 1% cash cuts at Conwy, Anglesey and Flintshire with small increases at Rhondda Cynon Taf and Cardiff.

She said many consider the settlement a "tribal and lazy approach".

But Mr Drakeford said the formula used was "set on expert advice" and "agreed by local government".

The Welsh Government provides most of the money used by councils to fund services, including leisure centres, schools, waste and care provision.

On Tuesday, Local Government Secretary Alun Davies announced overall council funding for 2019-20 will be cut in cash terms by 0.3% to £4.21bn, equivalent to £13m.

All authorities face real-terms cuts when inflation is taken into account.

During Wednesday's finance questions in the assembly, Aberconwy AM Ms Finch-Saunders had told him: "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?"

Mr Drakeford responded: "The member 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.

"The funding formula is agreed every year with local government.

"I sat in the finance sub-group where local authority leaders agreed on the latest set of changes to the formula.

"By and large those changes were ones that favoured more rural parts of Wales because they added an additional increment to the recognition of sparsity in the way that the formula operates.

"Welsh Government does not set the formula, it is set on expert advice and it is agreed by local government."

Mr Drakeford said Ms Finch-Saunders's local council, Conwy, had received less funding because unemployment, the number of secondary school pupils and the number of primary schoolchildren claiming free school had fallen in the area in the past year.

On Tuesday, Conservative local government spokesman Mark Isherwood called the local government funding settlement a "kick in the teeth for north, mid and west Wales".

The Welsh Local Government Association has said money "simply does not provide enough resources to fund local services".