Budget is ‘as good as it could be’

Reporter:

Rebecca Cole

AS THE debate over the draft budget fall-out rumbles on Flintshire Council has made no guarantees to save jobs or specific services.

But the Assembly Member for Wrexham said the Labour-led Government was determined to remain ‘undaunted’ and described the draft budget as ‘bold and distinctive’ in the face of challenging financial circumstances.

Colin Everett, Chief Executive of Flintshire County Council, who believes the plans are broadly as expected, stressed that he appreciates the Assembly Government has a challenging job to do in balancing the budget.

He claims he cannot be certain which services will suffer most until the Government releases details of each local authority’s specific funding grants this week.

But he did admit the impact on Flintshire will be a reduction in revenue of at least 3.5 per cent in real terms in 2011/12, and upwards of seven per cent by 2014.

He said: “Our target of having to find efficiencies and revenue savings of more than £10million in 2011/12 has proved accurate.

“The position on the availability of capital to fund projects from road schemes to school buildings to leisure centre refurbishment is stark.”

He added: “There has been speculation over which local services funded by specific grants will be safe, and which might not.

“Until we have the detailed announcements on each specific grant we cannot end this speculation.

“As and when announcements are made on each grant – something which traditionally happens in stages over several months – we cannot give certainty to the providers, employees and users of those services alike.”

Cllr Alun Jenkins, lead member for finance and asset management at Wrexham County Council believes the draft budget is as good as can be expected at this time and hinted that the strain on public services was a result of more than just a tightening of purse strings.

He said: “In the current climate this outcome is as good as it gets although we will await the distributional impact on individual councils next week.

“We must not forget the rising cost of council services due to increasing demand and inflation.”

But Lesley Griffiths, Wrexham’s AM, will not be deterred by the difficult times ahead.

She added: “The draft budget shows Wales to be a separate nation with separate priorities, which seeks to protect front-line services, maintain universal benefits
and keep job losses to an absolute minimum.

“The Welsh Assembly Government has clearly shown it will not allow Wales to be passive victims to Westminster cuts and will protect and invest its way to a Welsh economic recovery.

“I believe we have won the argument over spending priorities and cuts and recent labour market data appear to show we are winning an economic recovery for Wales.”

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