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Conwy North Wales Politics

Council leaders slam UK and Welsh Government in council tax row

Conwy County Council

CONWY cabinet members slammed the UK and Welsh governments for underfunding council services and causing council tax to increase in April by 9.67%.

And both the leader and cabinet member of education warned of the damage the underfunding was causing to children’s welfare.

The final balanced budget is set to be agreed at a full council meeting on Thursday (29 February), but speaking at a cabinet meeting at Bodlondeb this week, councillors demanded that Westminster and Cardiff listened to the criticism.

Leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey and cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon said Conwy was getting blamed for decisions made higher up the food chain.

The criticism follows Conwy receiving a local government settlement rise of just 2%, the joint lowest percentage rise in Wales, together with Gwynedd, meaning Conwy was facing a budget short fall of £22.5m.

With service cuts across the board amounting to £7.851m, Conwy is even cutting school budgets by 5.5%, a saving of £4.161m – despite cutting education budgets by 5% last year.

Cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon blamed the situation on Welsh Government, who are funded by UK Government.

“I just want to highlight the fact that it isn’t us who have got us in this position,” she said.

“This is the result of what happens at Westminster, what happens in Cardiff, and I think sometimes that just doesn’t seem to come through out there. I think they (the public) think that it is the council tax and we just raise the council tax year on year to pay for goodness-knows-what.

“In reality the majority of our funding comes directly from Welsh Government, and their funding comes from UK Government. I would just ask those governments to really pay attention.

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“Obviously we’ve been in the difficult situation last year and other local authorities had additional funding they could use from their reserves. We haven’t been in that position, and now other local authorities as well are finding themselves in a really precarious position where we’ve  taken that low-hanging fruit over the last few years, and now the decisions we are taking are not decisions that we would choose to take.”

She added, “This is when we are seeing the impact of COVID. It’s the kids that are going into schools now, the nurseries, who were born during COVID. We’ve got some schools where we’ve got over 50% coming into nursery still in nappies.

“That is just unheard of previously because these kids didn’t get to interact. They didn’t get to go to toddler groups and different things where parents over the years have learned to parent. So we are really starting to see the impact of that. They have to find some money to support this.”

Cllr Charlie McCoubrey also pointed to the damage the underfunding was doing to the health of the population, pointing out that Conwy now received £89m less funding than it did 14 years ago.

“10% now of the NHS is spent on type-two diabetes; 80% is spent on the complications caused by type-two diabetes,” he said.

“Now we have leisure centres at risk moving forward if they are not funded, and that is what keeps people happy and healthy and out of hospital.”

He added. “As regards to the mental health of our children, if they aren’t setting off on the right path in life then we have big, big problems. And we say all the time, but the anger is directed at us. We are told we’ve been given enough funding. Well, the figures are absolutely clear we have not been given anywhere near enough funding, but as always we’ll look to find solutions to the really difficult problems before us.”

The cabinet backed the provisional budget which will now be decided at a full council meeting at Bodlondeb on Thursday 29 February.