8th December 2021

Llanelli Online News

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Unison calls on Carmarthenshire councillors not to approve a ‘cuts’ budget

A TRADE union has called on councillors in Carmarthenshire not to approve a budget which cuts services.

Mark Evans, of Unison, has claimed that the authority could borrow money or use reserves to cover any shortfall it faces in 2021-22.

Mr Evans, Carmarthenshire Unison’s branch secretary, said he believed this would send a signal to central Government after years of austerity, which he said had eroded councils’ real-terms spending power.

Independent body Audit Wales said in a guide to public finances that councils were required by law to have a balanced budget, but that the legislation did not define what balanced meant in practice.

Carmarthenshire Council will set its 2021-22 budget early next month, and had originally planned to make savings of £5.9 million. But the updated position is savings of £2.5 million, with the difference deferred to future years.

In a leaflet emailed to county councillors, Unison said: “We call on councillors to oppose any further cuts and to set a needs-led, no-cuts budget and then launch a campaign of opposition with the trade unions and call on other councils and the Welsh Government to support.

“Sitting on hands claiming there is nothing you can do is not good enough because you were not elected to pass on Tory cuts.”

The council is expecting a £10.4 million increase in funding from the Welsh Government in 2021-22 but, like all councils, faces pressures such as increased demand for services and extra costs to deliver them.

It has also spent a lot of money dealing with the Covid crisis, although it has got most of it back from the Welsh Government.

Carmarthenshire’s Plaid-Independent administration is proposing a 4.48% council tax rise in 2021-22 to help balance the books.

Mr Evans said Carmarthenshire Unison had lobbied the previous Labour-led administration not to implement cuts.

He said he wasn’t holding out hope that his no-cuts call would be answered, and that only one councillor had emailed him back so far.

Mr Evans said: “Do we expect them to do it? No. Do we expect Labour councils to do it? No.

“But it’s still a strategy. It’s about defending services.”

Councils across Wales are finalising their budget proposals, which set out their spending plans against known and likely levels of income.

Education and social services are the biggest sources of expenditure, while the revenue support grant from the Welsh Government, council tax and a redistribution of business rates are the mainstays of income.

The Local Democracy Reporter Service asked Unison Swansea if it would call on Swansea councillors not to approve a cuts budget for 2021-22.

Branch secretary Chris Cooze said: “We have been given some outline information in respect of the budget, but detailed consultation has not yet begun. Once we understand the implications of the budget proposals, we will be consulting with our members.”

Mr Cooze said he didn’t see any reason why there should be any compulsory redundancies, and that the revenue support grant proposed by the Welsh Government was better than of late.

But he added that local Government funding had taken “a massive hit” over the last 10 to 15 years.

Swansea Council is proposing a 3.99% council tax rise in 2021-22.

Carmarthenshire Council was asked for a comment but did not reply at the time of going to press.

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