THE worst is yet to come.
That was the message from councillors yesterday as they approved one of the most drastic budgets in years.
At a meeting of Flintshire Council, elected members paved the way for a revenue budget for the years 2014-2015 that will see unprecedented saving targets of £12 million in the 12 months from April.
More than 80 jobs could be axed as part of the changes, with at least eight of its top 18 managerial posts set to be scrapped.
Nobody voted against the plans, although 11 councillors abstained and a number of concerns were raised.
Cllr Aaron Shotton, Labour leader of the council, said there had been very little time to make changes which came about after the Welsh Government issued a hammer blow to council funding in its draft budget.
Cllr Shotton added: “These challenges are not going to go away. Councils like us are being forced to take disastrous decisions.
“We are not prepared to offset the burden to the hard-pressed council taxpayer.”
Independent Cllr Tony Sharps, who said he had seen 46 budgets come and go, said: “Next year it is going to be a lot worse”.
Flint Labour councillor Alex Aldridge agreed with Cllr Sharps’ sentiment and said: “We’re going to find ourselves in the most invidious situation ever known as elected members.
“I would never want to go through what the cabinet and officers had to to reach a position here today.”
He added: “We need to recognise the agony staff will be going through.
“People will be making agonising choices about their future and it is a loathsome task.”
Holywell councillor Gareth Roberts (Plaid Cymru) also sparked a reaction in the chamber when he said council tax should have been put up by five per cent, rather than the three per cent agreed.
He said: “We would be better off by £1 million which is less than 10 per cent of our efficiencies.
“It would be less than 10 per cent of our workforce that would have to take redundancy, but it is a help.
“The majority of people I talk to would much prefer us to bring the level [taxed] up a reasonable rate to carry out their services.”
Further concerns about the budget were raised by opposition members, with Conservative Matt Wright saying: “We have some concerns about the rushed nature of the changes to the organisation and the structure and what the
real costs of these changes will be.
“I can’t support the budget how it is set out.”
He said it would be ‘irresponsible’ to vote against the budget and he would abstain.
Others, including Independent Alliance leader Mike Peers, raised the issue of members feeling they were not involved enough in the decision-making process.
Prior to yesterday’s meeting, former Flintshire Council Independent leader Cllr Arnold Woolley sparked a major row when he likened members scrutinising budget cuts to “a few sets of nodding donkeys”.
He was unable to attend yesterday’s meeting.