The Leader of the WLGA is today calling for an end to the relentless cuts to public services as a new report is published highlighting the scale of shrinking budgets.
The publication of the report “Welsh Budgetary Trade-offs” it a timely and thorough piece of work from Wales Public Services 2025. It lays bare the catastrophic impact that eight years of austerity have had on local public services. At best the consequences of political decisions to protect some services means that others barely have the resource they had in 2009-10.
The cuts in the smaller but vital services that act as the bedrock of any civil society are breath taking. It is local government services that have become the “Cinderellas” of Welsh public services. Functions like Transport, protection, culture, libraries, environmental services that have carried the weight of budget reductions. They have been hollowed out by anything between 20% to 40%. This impacts across communities. For example, at a time when national economic growth is anaemic, local authorities have had to reduce spending on economic development by over 60%.
WPS 2025 projections of future Welsh Government budgets show that it will still experience reducing budgets after adjusting for inflation but in cash terms they will increase. Under certain assumptions the Health budget could increase to 55% of the whole budget and this will have massive implications for those services that remain unprotected. As the report argues there is little point in pretending that their sustainability is not in question.
Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport), WLGA Leader said:
“Since becoming Leader of the WLGA I have consistently stated that austerity is a busted flush and its impact on our services, our communities that use them and the workforce that provide them has been devastating. My consistent message is that our services are a force for good, they are the cement which lock communities together. But they are struggling, and it is our duty to campaign for them and protect them.”
“The belief that austerity works has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. In effect, for some services, we have witnessed a prolonged seven-year “closing down sale”. The Chartered Institute of Environment Health for example recently warned that their ability to deal with worsening air pollution and E-coli outbreaks are hugely compromised if further cuts to environmental health services are forced through. It is worth pointing out that it is preventative services like these that keep people out of the NHS.”
Councillor Anthony Hunt (Torfaen), WLGA Spokesperson for Resources said:
“This report shows that local services are at a crossroads and there are difficult times ahead. My belief is that further reductions will lead to further diminution and withdrawal of services that will impact on everyone including the most vulnerable in society. There is already an emerging public backlash against cuts. As a local government community, we are asking for parity of treatment for local services and the NHS.”
“We are arguing that our funding arrangements are made more flexible and that we are given a multi-year deal. There is a passing reference in the report to the public service pay and cap. WLGA wants this to end. We want the hard-working people who work in our services to be fairly rewarded. Equally this must be fully funded by Westminster. We are calling on all Assembly Members in advance of the Welsh Government Draft Budget in October to reflect on the findings of this report, recognise the stark decisions councils have made and act to start to redress the damage done to local public services.”