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Time for Carmarthenshire County Council to fight cuts, says UNISON

UNISON Carmarthenshire County Branch have contacted Herald Wales saying they are unhappy with claims that there was nothing the council could do about cuts as they ‘were at the mercy of the UK Government draconian financial policies’ have contacted Herald Wales saying they are unhappy with claims that there was nothing the council could do about cuts as they ‘were at the mercy of the UK Government draconian financial policies’

Unison said: “Carmarthenshire County Council Plaid Cabinet member for resources Alun Lenny.

“Cllr Lenny claims in the email sent to our branch date the 12th of January and in the article published in the Carmarthen Journal dated the 18th of January that in effect there was nothing the council could do as they were at the mercy of the UK Government draconian financial policies”

UNISON said that they are now calling on the council to implement a legal needs led no cuts budget.

The union said: “In our No Cuts document we spend four pages dealing with how the council and councillors have a choice to fight or not and outlining how they can do this. Your response is to say is it’s impossible with little explanation and no alternative.”

They added: “But we have already anticipated this response and that is contained in our document. We do not mention ‘imposing a No cuts budget’ as you do in your email dated the 12th of January 2023, we call for the council to implement a legal needs led no cuts budget after voting for it.

“We maintain that the council have done next to nothing in action to oppose devastating cuts. Calling on the Tories to increase funding to Welsh Government is all well and good but what has the council done to achieve this, what actions have you taken.

“We all know the answer- the point of implementing a legal needs led no cuts budget is it buys time to build a mass campaign of opposition to cuts involving other councils, the trade unions, and communities. We plot out how this strategy if implemented could potentially build a campaign to defeat the cuts.

“What do you say in response it is ‘impossible’ what’s impossible is that working class communities will be able to shoulder cuts to vital services they need and use and be able to pay for increased charges on top of a cost-of-living crisis.

The union insists that words are cheap, and what the trade unions want to know is what the council are going to do stop these cuts in action.

They added “It is noticeable [the] your email that what starts as shielding the residents of Carmarthenshire from the most savage cuts becomes ‘the proposed savings’ when Carmarthenshire County Council implements them.

“This reflects the language used in the sham public consultation the council is once again engaging in. Throughout this document the word ‘savings’ is substituted for the word cuts. The council is using smoke and mirrors to hide what is happening that the council is implementing Tory cuts passed on by a Welsh Labour Government.

“In the past the Plaid leadership of the council have rightly been critical of Welsh Government for doing this but now it seems this criticism has been put to one side perhaps because Plaid has a cooperation agreement with Labour.

“We have continually stated that most councillors would not want cuts and we do not dispute that the council is doing ‘your level best’ to cushion the blows. But the stuffing is out of the cushion by previously implementing cuts as have other councils many services are in crisis.

“Due to low pay the council cannot recruit and retain staff in many areas in the worst of cost-of living crisis in decades the council implementing the ‘real’ Foundation Living Wage is grossly inadequate- any thing less than £15 an hour is paying poverty wages and the 50p a mile you say the council agreed to pay is for a limited time and isn’t paid if the price a litre goes under 150p a litre and the council were only implementing what the Joint Council for Wales advocated.

“Given the cost-of-living crisis these measures are a drop in the ocean.

“Implementing a Legal Needs led No Cuts Budget would avoid any increase in council tax.

“We are advocating a way to fight the cuts what the council is proposing is driving a coach and horses through the council’s well-being objectives yet another issue you avoided addressing.

“There is every chance that a mass campaign could defeat cuts, but no victory is assured.

“As the late RMT union leader Bob Crow said ‘If you fight you wont always win. But if you don’t fight you will always lose’.

“This is a political issue Plaid is leading the council and your refusal to fight means working class communities and employees lose out. We urge you to rethink and stand up for jobs and services by implementing a legal needs led no cuts budget as a means to building a mass campaign to defeat the cuts.”

The council says that the rising cost of inflation, food and energy prices along with increased global demands for goods and services, means that the Carmarthenshire County Council is facing a significant shortfall in its 2023/24 budget.

A council spokesperson said: “The Council’s energy costs have trebled and the level of nationally agreed pay awards for staff is far above what was budgeted for 12 months ago, due to the significant rise of inflation.

“Following the Welsh Government funding settlement, announced on December 14, Carmarthenshire County Council now knows that it will need to bridge a budget shortfall of over £20million in its 2023/24 budget.

“Welsh Government recognise this has been one of the toughest budgets that they have ever set and therefore the money allocated to local authorities, which makes up around three-quarters of our funding, will fall well short of what the Council need to continue with services as they are currently.

“Council Tax raises around £92million a year and contributes to around a quarter of the total annual budget.

“The Council has a legal responsibility to set a balanced budget every year, ensuring that income from sources such as Council Tax, revenue from paid-for services and grants is enough to cover its expenditure.”

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