Posted: Wed 21st Dec 2022

No complaint letters to Welsh Government over next years funding, says council cabinet member

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 21st, 2022

A senior Flintshire councillor has said members will not be co-signing an MP’s letter to the Welsh government complaining about how much the local authority has to spend on services next year.

Flintshire council needs an extra £32m for the upcoming financial year to maintain current levels of service due to rising inflation, energy costs, pay awards, and increased demand for social services.

Last week Welsh government announced an 8.4% funding boost for Flintshire in its provisional local government settlement.

The figure is at the higher end of scale across the 22 councils in Wales and equates to nearly £20m but falls £12m short of what the council says it will need.

Previous funding shortfalls have resulted in a hike in council tax and a reduction of council services, but “it will take some time to work through the detail.” The council has said.

Rebecca Evans, Welsh government minister for finance said next year’s funding prioritises the protection of frontline public services, “and this increased funding to councils – who deliver so many of these services – is a vital part of that.”

“I recognise however that inflationary pressures being faced by services mean that local authorities will still need to make difficult decisions in setting their budgets.”

Despite the uplift, Flintshire’s spend per capita (person) remains one of the lowest in Wales.

A point which has angered Delyn MP Rob Roberts, he has called on Flintshire councillors to co-sign a letter to the Welsh government finance minister complaining about the funding settlement. 

The leader of the council, Flint Castle Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab) welcomed the additional funds, in a statement last week he said:

“The settlement is positive news and I take this opportunity to thank Welsh Government for listening to the concerns expressed during the period up to the recent settlement announcement.”

In response, Rob Roberts, who sits as an independent MP but is a member of the Conservative party,  said the council leaders’ comments were “absolutely comical.”

He said it was “unbelievable that having the 20th highest settlement per head out of 22 local authorities in Wales AGAIN can be portrayed as a victory by the leader of the council.”

On his Facebook page, Rob Roberts said: “I have written to all of the Delyn county councillors asking them to co-sign my letter of complaint to the Welsh Government that they are once again short-changing the people of Delyn and Flintshire more widely.”

He said: “This is not a party political issue. When I tried to pull everyone together earlier this year, the Labour group were apparently instructed not to engage with my efforts.”

“I call upon them now to see that this is foolish in the extreme and that we should all be pulling together for the local community regardless of any partisan nonsense that has nothing to do with getting fairer funding for Flintshire.”

During this month’s meeting of the council’s cabinet, held on Tuesday, Flintshire council chief executive Neil Cockerton said the settlement is “better than we had anticipated at 8.4%.”

He said the council needs to “reflect on where that will take us” in terms of the budget gap.

“What it doesn’t deliver is the £32m gap, it delivers a proportion of that.”

“There is further work to do, that work is underway and will continue through the early part of January to understand how we bridge the gap.”

Holywell West Cllr Paul Johnson, cabinet member for finance, said: “We can only welcome the 8.4%.”

“I can assure you that we won’t be signing any letters to the Welsh Assembly (Government) as organised by the local member of parliament because I think we did very well.”

“I think where we are now is a tribute to the success of the strategy that we’ve employed.”

“It’s not one where we jumped up and down in a hysterical manner waving our arms, shouting that everything’s unfair.”

“Our work through the Welsh Local Government Association has been very very effective as can be demonstrated by the result, we’ve worked with others (councils) and we got a good deal because of it.”

Outlining the details of the provisional settlement, Gary Ferguson, Chief Finance Officer said: “In cash terms, (the 8.4%) it is £19.56m additional funds for this year.

“There are three large grants still to be confirmed – the sustainable waste management grant, and a couple of homelessness grants.

“From my point of view, it’s very helpful, very welcome and significantly in excess of the indicative amount. However we do need to be mindful that it only equates to around 60 per cent of our cost pressures identified in the £32m.

The chief finance officer said that while the 8.4% represents an increase“ higher than the Welsh average of 7.9%, and is 8th out of the 22 local authorities in Wales the “funding per capita, remains at 20th (out of 22).

Leader of the council, Flint Castle Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab) said he was grateful to the UK Government for passing the funding on to the Welsh Government which is now reaching Flintshire, which he said would “make a tremendous difference” to this year’s budget.

Rob Roberts called on constituents in Delyn to “get in touch with your councillor and ask him or her to support my efforts.”

“Council tax has gone up more than 33% in the past 6 years and this latest settlement means it will go up even further next year because we are constantly underfunded.”

 

 

 

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