Statement by The Leader and Chief Executive - 13 December 2018
On the 20 November 2018 Flintshire County Council launched its #BacktheAsk campaign for fair funding for local government and for Flintshire.
The campaign is not a party political campaign and can be backed by anyone who cares about local government and local services.
For the past three years Flintshire has been openly saying that the ongoing national budget situation is not sustainable and that local services are under serious threat.To combat more than a decade of year on year reductions in funding from governments and its exposure to the effects of austerity due to being one of the lowest funded councils per head of population in Wales, Flintshire ‘asked’ Welsh Government for an additional £5.6m to help bridge the £6.7m budget gap it faces in 2019/20.
We believe our ‘asks’ are possible and affordable. Welsh Government has enough financial flexibility to improve its Final Settlement on 19 December, particularly given the additional revenue funding it is to receive as a consequence of the recent Chancellor’s budget.
At around the time of the launch of our #BacktheAsk campaign, Welsh Government’s Cabinet and Ministers announced some specific additional funding to assist local councils, some of which met our ‘asks’:
- An additional £14.2m investment into the Settlement for Welsh councils. This would mean a 0.5% cut in Flintshire’s funding rather than the 1% originally announced – for Flintshire the estimated benefit will be £949,000.
- A further £7.5m towards the costs of the national teacher pay award – for Flintshire we estimate this to be worth £375,000.
- An allocation of £2.3m for Children’s Social Services which we estimate our benefit to be £110,000.
- An extra £30m to be allocated to the region for Health and Social Care - £15m of which to be reserved for Children’s Social Services. Confirmation of this funding is yet to be received but our estimate is that it could be worth £705,000 for Flintshire.
- A further £30m for social care which is estimated will give Flintshire an extra £1.410m.
Whilst these announcements have been welcomed, when put all together the sum of this extra money is still not enough. Even if we receive everything we have estimated we are still facing a budget gap of around £3.2m.
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 local communities.
As across the whole of Wales, our schools are facing a chronic funding situation and there has been no visible priority for schools in Welsh Government’s provisional budget. Whilst an extra £15m for schools has been announced, it comes with a condition that it must be spent on professional leadership and development. Whilst this is worth £750,000 for our schools to develop their leadership capacity, it will not help to reduce the Council’s overall budget gap, nor will it help schools in managing their day to day budgets. Unlike other councils in Wales we are committed to maintaining our schools budgets but without providing any additional financial support, Welsh Government must accept that it is knowingly shifting the responsibility for paying for local services to the local Council Tax payer.
We hold comparatively low levels of reserves – similar to savings – and they are shrinking. We are already using £1.9m of our reserves to help bridge the gap next year. There is significant concern that any further use of reserve funds could be unsustainable for the budget in future years.
The Council’s budget solutions for 2019/20 already include a 4.5% Council Tax rise. Without any further funding announcements we will be left with no option but to increase Council Tax by 9.3%.
On top of this Flintshire’s contribution to North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority is set to be increased and a further 0.5% Council Tax increase would be needed to raise this estimated £420,000.
By backing our ‘ask’ in full and improving our Settlement by a minimum of £2m, it is within Welsh Government’s power to help protect local services and keep a rise in Council Tax at around 7%.
Support our #BacktheAsk campaign, join with us and call on Welsh Government to improve its Settlement for Welsh councils on 19 December by make greater use of the £59m extra money it has received through the UK Chancellor’s budget.
There are several ways you can get involved.
- Pledge support for #BacktheAsk by emailing or writing to your local Assembly Members and Members of Parliament asking for fairer funding for all councils.