Denbighshire County Council has expressed concern about the likelihood of a substantially worse financial settlement for the county for 2015/6 than had previously been indicated.
Cllr. Julian Thompson-Hill, Lead Member for Finance and Assets, said: “We have been working very pro actively as a County on developing our budget strategy for 2015/6 and beyond, to ensure that we are not having to take knee jerk reactions late in the year. We have developed a new system for providing our councillors with choices over where we make our reductions in budget and are working our way through detailed discussions on each and every one of our service areas.
“As Welsh local authorities, we have been given from Welsh Government an indicative budget reduction at an average of -1.6% and this is what we have been working to deliver.
“We are now very concerned that the Welsh Government may be considering a significantly greater reduction in the local government budget next year. This would equate to a potential additional £3 million over and above the £6m of cuts we are already planning for. What we need from the Minister is a clear statement as to exactly how bad the settlement is going to be so that we can make our plans accordingly. As an authority our councillors want and need to make decisions well in advance of the final announcement of the budget in November otherwise we will not have sufficient time to ensure proposals are properly thought through and indeed many will require a substantial lead in time to deliver and these decisions simply cannot be made with only a couple of months notice.
“I am also highly concerned that Welsh Government may be looking for councils to protect spend in areas which are not statutory. In these very difficult times it is vital that local councils have as much flexibility as possible to determine at a local level, taking into account local priorities, how we structure our own budgets. The more areas which are externally protected the worse the impact on remaining services. In a similar vein we would be calling on the Minister to assure local government that the established principle that there will be no new requirements imposed on councils without the requisite funding being allocated will remain in force.
“In all of this, Welsh Government need to be clear that whilst we will at all times seek to preserve front line services for the residents of Denbighshire, the impact of these cuts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on our ability to maintain services and we would welcome the Minister giving us the assurance that they will not be making any punitive reductions in local government funding. We do appreciate that they have the perfect right to transfer funds from local councils to the NHS.
“I would reiterate what is needed from Ministers is a clear and transparent announcement as to what reductions in budget will be required from councils, in order that we can plan in good time and we do not need to be hamstrung by having large areas of budget protected restricting our choices unnecessarily. This is only the same consistency of approach adopted in other regions of the UK where 3 year budgeting for local councils has been the norm for some years, this should be the case here in Wales to allow us to forward plan effectively.”