Thursday, 9 October 2014

Will WAG cuts make council merger less or more likely?

Could the cuts in local Local services with local authorities have being told they will get £146m less from next April from the Welsh government. be in part deigned to escalate volunteer mergers between our councils?
 Key services will be "dismantled" and the "very fabric" of communities will be tested after budget cuts, council leaders have warned.
But ministers insist none of Wales' 22 councils will see an individual cut of more than 4.5%. as a result of the deal Labour have done with the Liberal Democrats  but you will probably not see the latter admitting that part of the deal,
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said some local services will be "crushed" by further cuts.
Councils will get £4.12bn in their block grants - an overall cut of 3.4% on this year.
But the WLGA said local services had been placed "bottom of the pile" in Welsh government funding priorities for a second year running.

Start Quote

...local services must be prioritised and adequately funded by Welsh government, not simply cut to ribbons”
Hugh EvansDenbighshire council leader
It said local services would be scaled back and spending on them was now "in reverse gear".
WLGA leader Bob Wellington, of Torfaen council who apparently have had talks with Blaneau Gwent over a merger , said national politicians needed to support difficult decisions taken locally and to set "clear and realistic priorities" for public services throughout Wales.
He said
"The financial issues affecting local government will impact on us all,"
"They will impact on the range and quality of the services we receive, the taxes and charges we pay and they will impact on the very fabric and resilience of communities in Wales."
Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews said he accepted the settlement was "challenging" but was a result of reductions in UK funding.
"Unlike England, we have protected local authorities in Wales from the bulk of these cuts over the past five years," 
 Denbighshire council leader Hugh Evans, who is also leader of the WLGA independent group, said other services would be "dismantled" to protect spending on education.
"We want to ensure that the young sportsmen and women of the future have leisure centres in which to train and grow their skills, and we want to protect the day centres that support many of the most vulnerable within our communities," he said.
"To achieve this local services must be prioritised and adequately funded by Welsh government, not simply cut to ribbons."
The WLGA also argued that the call for getting rid of "expensive" council officers and reducing the number of councillors would only save around £18m, while councils were looking at a £900m predicted budget black hole over the next three years.
It does look that merger talks as proposed by the Williams Commission  that Councils in Wales should merge leaving 10, 11 or 12 local authorities rather than the current 22, will now intensify.
But it will likely cause major problems when we see how council react to the cuts.
Suppose Blaina Gwent implement Cuts and Torfaen instead dig into reserves.
They then merge and in the new the people of Blaneau Gwent  find many of their local amenities have closed and the former Torfaens area are still open.
Will Leighton Andrews introduce rules about the voluntary mergers to prevent this.
Will the councils have to agree on a policy of cuts now before any merger
I started this Blog by saying that part of the Welsh Government thinking may be that the cuts will intensify the call for voluntary mergers.
But  Local rivalries may make this more difficult even if the controlling party are the same colour (almost certainly Labour).
Whatever happens the savagery of the cuts that started with the Westminster Tory/LibDem coalition look like it will blight us for a generation at the very least.

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