Senior Flintshire councillor blasts ‘ridiculous’ council funding gap
A senior Flintshire councillor has hit out at the “ridiculous” gap in funding between local authorities in Wales.
It follows the revelation that Flintshire Council will receive £135 less per person who lives in the county to deliver services than the national average for the next financial year.
The council’s provisional allocation from the Welsh Government for 2022/23 stands at £232m, which represents an annual increase of 9.2 per cent.
The amount equates to £1,476 per capita compared to the Welsh average of £1,611, placing the county third from bottom out of the 22 local authority areas.
The difference in funding levels has been criticised by members of Flintshire’s ruling Labour administration as the council struggles to balance its books.
They are now planning to lobby ministers to address the disparity between different locations.
Speaking at a meeting held this morning (Tuesday, January 18), Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for planning and public protection said: “You could say that we should be used to existing at the bottom of the pile because we have been doing it for over two decades, but this is ridiculous.”
“That’s £135 less per person we have to spend, and, in the past, we have sought a floor to ensure that no particular council has to subsist on such a small amount of money to spend on essential services for its community.
“There has previously been a skimming of councils at the top of the list in order to ensure that there is a levelling up, but we haven’t seen it in recent years.
“I think we ought to be making a strong case for this if there are no changes in the foreseeable future.”
Officials previously estimated the authority would need an extra £20.7m to plug the gap in its budget for the next financial year.
However, that amount is expected to rise significantly due to other decisions made by the devolved government.
They include a move to pay social care staff the “real living wage” of £9.90 an hour and an expected salary increase for teachers.
The impending closure of a Covid support fund for councils in Wales is also anticipated to have a negative impact.
The council has written to Finance and Local Government Minister Rebecca Evans to request a threshold system is put in place to address the difference in funding levels.
Chief executive Neal Cockerton said: “We’ve remained in this position for a considerable number of years.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask what we’ve asked of the minister and we’ll see what response we get back in relation to that.
“In terms of pay awards, a number of them aren’t in our control as they are set by external bodies.
“They have a major and significant impact and will have on our budget process.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said it was providing the “best possible settlement” for local authorities, which represents an average annual increase of 9.4 per cent.
They said: “In 2022-23 Flintshire will receive more than £232m, an increase of nearly £20m on a like for like basis.
“The settlement funding provided will enable local government to plan to deliver the real living wage for care as well as ensuring hard-working staff receive well-deserved pay rises.
“We fully recognise the pressures local authorities are facing and will continue to work closely with local government to meet our shared challenges.”
The authority has until next month to respond to the provisional funding announcement.
All councillors in Flintshire will meet during February to approve a budget for the next financial year.
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com