MP’s from Flintshire have written to the Chancellor calling on fairer funding for the council
Flintshire MPs – David Hanson (Lab, Delyn) and Mark Tami (Lab, Alyn and Deeside) – have written a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer demanding that Flintshire County Council gets its fair share of funding to cover the cost of teacher pay and pensions.
Flintshire County Council (FCC) has said it is facing a budget gap of £3.102m, without further intervention from the UK Government to increase the Welsh Government’s budgets the only remaining options they have left to balance the budget is to hike up Council Tax by as much as 9% or draw on reserves and balances.
It means Flintshire residents will once again bear the brunt of the budget shortfall as the council says it has little scope to dip into reserves.
FCC has made around £85m of efficiencies over the last ten years and the Cabinet and senior officers do not believe that anymore can be done without putting statutory services at risk.
Pressure has increased on FCC budgets following the teacher pay and conditions decision taken by the Secretary of State for Education in England.
Currently, teacher pay and conditions is a reserved matter for Westminster meaning that the English Secretary of State can set pay increases and pension policy.
The decision to increase teacher pay has been welcomed by both the Flintshire MPs, public-sector workers have been deprived of a decent day’s pay for too long.
However, the decision was taken by the UK Government that it would only be partly funded.
FCC has told Flintshire MPs that through the Revenue Support Grant and the Teachers Pay Grant from Welsh Government the schools budget will be funded for 1% of the impact of the pay award implement in September 2018.
The balance of 1.2% of the pay award is a cost pressure which will have to be absorbed by schools.
The Council have stated that it can be assumed that there will be a Teachers’ Pay Award from September 2019 which, unless national funding is made available, will be an additional cost pressure which will also need to be absorbed by schools.
The Chancellor has said that £4.7billion will be made nationally available to cover public sector increased pension costs.
However, there was no information on whether this would result in a consequential for Welsh Government funding.
On teacher pensions, from September 2019 the employer’s contribution will increase from 16.48% to 23.6%. The impact of this on Flintshire schools will be £2.026m.
In their letter, Flintshire MPs have requested a meeting with the Treasury to discuss the funding Flintshire needs and written information on how the UK Government intends to support North East Wales.
David Hanson – MP for Delyn – said:
“The chronic underfunding of the Welsh Government and local government by the UK Government has placed untold strain on our local services. The austerity that has been forced upon us is driven by a rigid dogma from the Conservative Party and has no basis in economic reality.
“Whilst I welcome the pay increase for our teachers it should be a cost that is shared across England and Wales. We have arrived at a situation where the councils in South East England are cash rich and councils in Wales and the North of England struggle due to their restricted capacity to raise revenue.
“All we are asking for is some sign that the UK Government is listening. The Treasury should agree to a meeting between Flintshire MPs, Councillors and senior officers so that we can find a solution to this funding crisis.”
Mark Tami – MP for Alyn and Deeside – said:
“Flintshire County Council has already done remarkably well to keep services running whilst having their budget cut. But I fear this potential added cost could be the final straw.
“I am very much of the belief that teachers deserve a pay increase for the fantastic work that they do. However, we should not be in a position where the local authority has to increase council tax to fund it.
“The Tories’ agenda of austerity has bankrupted some local councils and is leaving many others on the brink. I hope the Treasury takes us up on the offer to meet so we can discuss our concerns.”
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