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 Gwent councils forced to cut £192 million
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pierre
Webmaster

United Kingdom
13580 Posts

Posted - 05/04/2017 :  18:24:11  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Gwent councils forced to cut £192 million over five years
Source: SothWalesArgus

COUNCILS in Gwent have been forced to make cuts totalling £192.76 million over the past five years, the Argus can reveal.

The five local authorities in the area have borne the brunt of austerity, forcing them to close libraries; scrap services for youngsters, the elderly and the vulnerable; lay off staff; and cancel popular events.

Council tax has also increased by an average of 15.78 per cent, between 2013/14 and the new 2017/18 financial year starting next month, adding an average of £244 to bills for Band D properties.

Responsibility for council funding in Wales is devolved to the Welsh Government, which is itself funded by a grant from the UK Government Treasury.

And spending cuts by Westminster have forced ministers in Cardiff Bay to slash funding for local authorities, placing council-run public services under strain.

A spokesman from the Welsh Local Government Association said: “All local services have felt the effects of an austerity agenda.

“Some services such as planning and regulation have experienced reductions of 40 per cent to 50 per cent after adjusting for inflation.

“Local authorities have had to make very difficult decisions, including increasing council tax, in order to try and maintain the quality of services expected by residents.”

He added: “It unlikely that central funding in the future will cover the inflationary and demographic pressures that will be faced in the future.

“Councils will have to continue to make difficult decisions and prioritise services.”

But figures released by the Welsh Government this week revealed council tax payers in Wales are paying an average of £171 less than their neighbours in England.

And rate increases will also be lower in the coming financial year, with bills going up an average of 3.3 per cent in Wales, compared with four per cent in England.

The Welsh Government’s finance and local government secretary Mark Drakeford said: “Councils here are facing some real financial challenges.

“But these latest figures show we are protecting local government from the worst of the cuts handed down by Westminster and, in doing so, protecting the taxpayer, a situation that has not been replicated on the other side of the border.

“In 2017/18 we are increasing funding for local government by £10 million compared to 2016/17.

“Under the funding floor we introduced in the local government settlement no council will have to manage on less than 99.5 per cent of the cash provided to them last year, and most will have more.”

The Welsh Government also runs a Council Tax Reduction Scheme, offering financial support to nearly 300,000 residents in Wales who need help with paying rates. Of these about 220,000 pay no council tax at all.

Mr Drakeford added changes aimed at making the scheme fairer would be announced later in the current Assembly term.

A Welsh Government spokesman said local authorities would be given £4.11 billion of non-ring fenced funding in the coming financial year, up £10 million compared with the current year.

“This is a significantly better settlement than local authorities were expecting and provides local authorities in Wales with the stability they need to manage the difficult decisions that lie ahead,” he said.

“This builds on the relative protection afforded to Welsh Government’s funding for local authorities in recent years.

“Compare that with the situation in England where local authorities have been faced with more substantial cuts to their budgets.”

He added setting council tax, and explaining their reasoning to residents, was a matter for individual authorities.

“In setting council tax levels we expect authorities to ensure they are able to sustain local services and balance this with considering the pressures on the finances of hard-pressed households,” he said.

The Welsh Government’s 2017/18 allocation for local government totals £3.42 billion.

The UK Government did not respond to request for comment.

NEWPORT

NEWPORT City Council has had to make cuts totalling £46.6 million since 2013, including £5.6 million in the coming year alone.

During the same time period council tax has increased by 17.49 per cent, with residents in Band D properties seeing their bills increasing by £184.92.

Among the cuts Newport City Council has been forced to make over the past five years include closing Stow Hill Library in 2013.

The same year, it also scrapped a number of services for people with learning disabilities, including shutting day centres for in Ringland and Baneswell, and closed Underwood Leisure Centre in Waltwood Road, Llanmartin in 2013.

The following year, it was found drug dealers had used the abandoned building to grow cannabis, with 4,000 plants found when police raised the site.

The popular SuperDragons trail, which saw a series of 60 individually-designed dragons placed around the city, was also scrapped in 2013 following cuts to the council’s arts budget.

In 2014, the council also decided to close the city’s museum and art gallery one day a week to save costs. Although it also closed the Hillside care home in Gaer Road in 2014, the council kept the facility open until the final resident moved out.

And, in the council’s budget for the coming year services in the city’s schools for children with challenging behaviour were scrapped, while a subsidy for the X16 bus service, which runs from Risca to Cardiff via Rogerstone and Marshfield, was also abolished.

MONMOUTHSHIRE

THE cuts Monmouthshire County Council has had to make since 2013 have totalled £22.65 million.

And, between the 2013/14 and 2017/18 financial years council tax had increased by 18.6 per cent, the greatest rise in Gwent, meaning residents in Band D properties will be paying £230.02 more in April than they were in 2013.

Cuts the council has made over the past five years include scrapping grants to pay for 16 to 18-year-olds to travel to college, reductions in funding for services for people with special needs and turning off street lights around the county.

The council also closed Abergavenny Tourist Information Centre in 2014. But the centre re-opened in a new location in Monk Street a few months later after the town council and St Mary’s Priory Development Trust stepped in to preserve the service.

Charges for swimming for pensioners have also been increased while town councils have been asked to chip in to pay for services.

Monmouthshire’s Conservative AM Nick Ramsay has frequently claimed the area is given short shrift in Welsh Government funding allowances. Last year he was give a slap on the wrist after claiming the Welsh Government “doesn’t give a toss” about rural Wales.

TORFAEN

CUTS Torfaen County Borough Council has been forced to make since 2013 have totalled £41.5 million.

And during the same period council tax has increased by 16.82 per cent, or £209.61 for Band D properties.

Most controversially the council took the decision to close Victoria Primary and Brynteg Nursery in Abersychan in 2016, with pupils moved to Cwmffrwdoer and Garnteg primaries despite passionate protests from parents, teachers and youngsters alike.

But, although the schools were originally slated to shut this summer, they will now remain open until next year following a judicial review.

Victoria Primary also shelled out for its own crossing patrol in 2015 after the council cut its services.

In 2014, an adult education centre in Pontypool was downsized, with the first floor rented out as office space, which cuts were also made to services such as meals on wheels and school crossings.

The council has spent £800,000 on renovating the Grade II listed library in Lion Street, Blaenavon, since the town received World Heritage Status in 2000.

But in March 2015 the authority declared the building surplus to requirements and moved library services into the World Heritage Centre in Church Road.

And the Cordell Museum, which features exhibits telling the story of the history of the town, also moved into the Workmen’s Hall in the High Street.

The council has also increased costs for a number of services while cut back on areas such as the mobile library.

BLAENAU GWENT


CUTS Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council has had to make between 2013 and the coming financial year come to £29.8 million.

Council tax has also increased by 14.95 per cent since 2013, meaning Band D bills will be £228.09 higher next month than they were five years earlier.

One of the most controversial is the decision the council has made is closing Brynmawr’s Market Hall Cinema, the oldest cinema in Wales, in 2013.

Although it was taken over by a trust later the same year – and, in 2014, was named UK Cinema of the Year – it was forced to close in November last year after asbestos was found in the building, and has remained closed since.

Nantyglo Sports Centre has also been closed, as have all the council-run public toilets in the area. And in 2015 the council cut bin collections from fortnightly to every three weeks in a bid to increase levels of recycling.

Last year a plan to open a new arts and cultural centre at the Works site in Ebbw Vale was scrapped after Blaenau Gwent council said it would not be able to fund its portion of the project.

Meanwhile and burial costs have increased while cuts have been made to services such as meals on wheels, stray animal collecting, sports clubs and weed spraying.


CAERPHILLY

RESIDENTS in Caerphilly have had to endure the biggest cuts in Gwent, with the council having to cut a massive £52.21 million since 2013.

But with this comes the lowest council tax increases, with bills for Band D properties going up by 11.04 per cent, or £124.42, over the same period.

In 2015 the council controversially abolished funding for Christmas lights in the area.

But town and community councils and other organisations in some towns and villages have stepped in to make sure the festive displays go ahead.

The council also closed Abertridwr Bowling Green and cut funding for other greens in the county, and closed its offices in Pontllanfraith in 2015.

And last year plans for a new cinema in Bargoed were scrapped after councillors said it would cost the taxpayer too much.

Other cuts include the closure of the café at Caerphilly Leisure centre, reductions in funding for buses and cleaning services.

The council also teamed up with Blaenau Gwent council in 2013 to jointly run social care services.

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milkman
Super Member

United Kingdom
1312 Posts

Posted - 17/05/2017 :  17:34:58 Link directly to this reply  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Monmouthshire CC have had a bigger increase over 10 years than any CC in the UK.
For whatever reason the Assembly has given Mon smaller frants than any other CC. I believe it is to do with some formula (Barlow?)..
As council tax payers it makes little sense but there is nothing we can do.
Incidentally I know that Tredegar has the highest tax in Wales so perhaps we (in Mon) were a bit better off 10 years ago
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