Fresh council service cuts in Denbighshire will be "deep and unexpected"


Rachel Nash

THE leader of Denbighshire County Council has attacked the Welsh Government after the authority was told to prepare for further budget cuts of £3million.
Councillor Hugh Evans has serious concerns about the Welsh Government's financial planning, and has written to Assembly members in North Wales asking for their support in lobbying the Welsh Government for a fairer settlement.
Having been advised by the Welsh Government to prepare for reductions of 1.5% for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 budgets, the council has now been warned, via a letter from the Minister for Local Government and Government Business Lesley Griffiths, that the figure could be trebled. This could result in funding being cut by 4.5% and an additional £3 million in savings needing to be made.
A council spokesperson said that the council is likely to have to make savings in the region of £9 million for 2015/16 with a similar figure estimated for 2016/17.
Councillor Evans said: “We have had a robust budget setting process in Denbighshire, which has proven to work well. 
“Over the past four years, we have managed cuts of over £20 million and at the same time protected our top priorities and jobs. We knew that 2015 /16 would be much tougher so we started planning in April 2014 and hope to have a package of cuts for our councillors to consider in the Autumn.
“However, the letter received from the Minister has made the indicative figure totally useless as a planning tool. I'm afraid the only thing this is indicative of is really poor financial planning from the Welsh Government. 
“At a stroke, this has added around £3 million to our cuts and it means that we will now have to cut more and deeper, at short notice.
“We do not believe that there has been any change in the allocation the Welsh Government receives from Westminster, so we are unclear about what has caused such a dramatic change in such a short time."
“The Minister's letter also refers to the significant demand and pressures facing the NHS in Wales, but remarkably, the letter makes no reference to the well documented pressures facing local government.
“It surely isn't too much to ask for reliable indicative figures, in a timely manner, so that we have the time to assess proposals and their impact, communicate them to our residents and implement them in a planned manner?
“We are now asking for our Assembly Members in North Wales to fight our corner in Cardiff Bay and lobby the Welsh Government to stick to their original indicative figure, or at least to apply a figure that bears some resemblance to it.”
Llangollen councillor Stuart Davies said the task of making cuts would be tough.
He said: “The bottom line is, the Welsh Assembly have messed up.
“The blame lies fully with them. The NHS is failing under their governance and it's my belief that they have taken money off local government to prop it up.
“Making the cuts is going to be very hard indeed.”

See full story in the Free Press

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