Flintshire County Council Statement on Budget 2018/19
For the past two years we have been saying publicly that the ongoing budget position is not sustainable and that local services are under serious threat. Through a combination of being inventive in organising ourselves and our services to save money, making best use of our resources, and having great support from our communities in accommodating change and taking on more responsibility for providing services for themselves - for example through community asset transfers, we have been able to get through. 2018/19 might be the year that the budget challenge is just too great.
We are facing a cut in our Welsh Government grant and have no protection against the costs of inflation and the increasing demands for services such as social care. We are facing a budget gap of around £13-14M. This is the on the back of successfully achieving budget efficiencies of around £80M over the past decade. It is unreasonable for councils to be put in this position. Governments have a responsibility to properly fund councils to provide local services to meet the needs and entitlements of communities and citizens.
All councils across the country are facing major budget challenges. We have made the strong case that, as a low funded council in Wales, Flintshire is particularly exposed to the effects of year on year cuts in public spending. We have local support for this case.
We are just completing the first stage of our budget planning for 2018/19 with the first £3M of savings set out. We are now working on the second stage. We are having to consider only offering to schools a â€˜cash-flat' budget with no extra funding for them to meet their own inflation costs, restricting access to some services, raising some service charges, and possibly the highest annual rise in Council Tax in Flintshire for some years. As things stand, and unless Government policy changes, this will not be the end of it, as there will still be a budget gap to bridge. The third and final stage of the budget, in the New Year, could see the closure of local facilities and services. This is the level of threat we face.
We again call on Welsh Government to increase funding in social care and schools in Wales, to improve the Local Government Provisional Settlement, to give councils local freedoms to recover costs through charging for example in domiciliary care, and to return a proportion of the Apprentice Tax Levy for councils as employers to fund their own apprenticeship schemes.
We support Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association, the Local Government Association, the community of local councils across Wales and England, the recognised Trade Unions, the workforce of local government, and the many interest groups who care about public services â€“ to pressure the UK Government to reverse its policy of austerity to give sufficient funding to local government - to save the day.