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Council faces financial ‘Armageddon’

Created on 29/11/2018 @ 10:12
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

Assembly Members covering Powys have received a letter from Powys County Council (PCC) Leader, Cllr Rosemarie Harris, outlining the county’s financial “Armageddon” and asking for help.

The letter was sent to Russell George, Helen Mary Jones, Joyce Watson, Kirsty Williams, Neil Hamilton and Eluned Morgan earlier this month.

It was sent after PCC was told what its eventual budget settlement would be with its initial budget cut of 1% upgraded to 0.5%.

But faced with making cuts of between £14 million to £17 million next year, and £41 over three years, the extra £870,000 from Cardiff Bay seems a drop in the ocean.

The letter asks the AMs to call on the Welsh Government for more funding while outlining all the problems faced by Powys due to an “unfair” funding system that helps urban but not rural councils.

Cllr Harris tells the six AMs that there will be many job losses in schools and council services.

Services will be reduced and the road network will be affected.

She goes on to say that people will be charged for public services such as cemeteries, garden waste and car parks.

And, grant funding for external organisations will be reduced or withdrawn and council assets will continue to be sold off.

Cllr Harris says in the letter: “The budget reductions come at a time when vital services such as children and adult services are under extreme pressure and takes little account of the cost of providing services across a large rural county like Powys. None of these pressures are recognised with additional funding.

“Powys has been in an unenviable position of having the joint poorest budget settlement in nine of the last 10 years.

“To put this in context, in the 10-year period between 2010 and 2020 we will have taken approximately £100 million from our budget.”

Cllr Harris added that inevitably the Council Tax will rise and that all that can be done to cut back on management costs is being done but the “approach is no longer sustainable”.

AM for Montgomeryshire, Russell George, has asked questions of the Government.

He said: “For me, the funding formula simply doesn’t recognise the different challenges of delivering vital public services over large rural areas of Mid Wales.

“The current system provides councils in urban South Wales with far more attractive financial settlements while the largest, most rural councils such as Powys are among those with the worst cash settlements.

“This exposes a fundamental weakness in the funding formula which has been in much need of reform for many years.

“The formula doesn’t adequately reflect the fact that Powys has a relatively small, disproportionately elderly population which is dispersed across a wide area, placing pressure on the delivery of essential local government services.

“In the end, people will be paying more for less which is why the Welsh Government must review and increase the 2019-20 local government settlement.”

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