WREXHAM Council is facing “unprecedented” cuts after the Welsh Government announced a bleak funding settlement yesterday.
The annual Cardiff Bay funding allocation – which makes up the biggest share the council’s annual income – saw Wrexham’s grant slashed by more than £6 million, compared with last year’s settlement.
The doleout of £181.4m for the current financial year will fall to £175.1m for 2014-15, a cut of 3.5 per cent.
Neighbouring Flintshire’s settlement fell by a similar figure – 3.6 per cent – while Denbighshire suffered worst of all Wales’ 22 local authorities with a 4.6 per cent fall.
The average reduction across Wales was in line with Wrexham’s 3.5 per cent cut.
The bleak settlements follow a 5.8 per cent reduction in Welsh Government local government spending announced in last week’s budget.
Wrexham Council’s lead member for finance, Cllr Malcolm King, admitted the cuts were “very bad news for Wrexham” and added the situation looked “bleak”.
He forecasted £13m worth of savings were now needed next year, more than treble the £4m deficit originally predicted by Wrexham Council deputy leader Mark Pritchard.
Cllr King said: “With such large reductions in the Welsh Block Grant coming from the UK Government and with a need to increase funding for the health service, it was inevitable the Welsh Government would pass on large cuts to local government.
“There is no disguising the fact that this is very bad news for Wrexham. In previous years, the council has made millions of pounds of savings year on year and has strived to protect schools and social care.
“But the scale of the reductions contained in this announcement is unprecedented. It is very different to what the council has been planning for just a few months ago.
“Unfortunately the funding situation looks bleak for quite a few years to come. Although the challenge to find around £13m of cuts next year is very daunting, the longer term challenges are even more difficult.
“We have already begun the task of reshaping our services while continuing to prioritise the most vulnerable. However, whatever the size of the challenge, Wrexham Council remains absolutely committed to the task of using whatever funding it has to deliver the best possible services for the people of Wrexham.”
As previously reported in the Leader, planned cuts in a report entitled ‘Reshaping services to meet the financial challenges’ include reducing cultural services by 75 per cent over the next two years and potentially closing art galleries and museums.
The closure of all sports and leisure facilities is highlighted unless they can be transferred to third sector or operated commercially (without subsidy) by mutual or arms-length organisations, as well as a 25 per cent reduction in spend on planning in 2014-15.
Libraries and street lighting also face cuts of up to 50 per cent.
Wrexham Council leader Neil Rogers said: “It is a difficult settlement for us. We are right on the 3.5 per cent average that is being felt across Wales but there is no hiding the fact that these cuts are unprecedented.
“We now need to analyse the document and put it before members. What is in no doubt is that Wrexham schools will be protected and we will do what is required in accordance with the minister’s statement.”