Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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Understanding devolution in Wales

1.1 Accountability

The UK Government must transfer large sums of money to be used according to decisions made by the Welsh Government. It is possible that this money will be spent in ways which deviate from what the UK Government would prefer.

At the same time, Welsh Government can blame any perceived shortcomings on its part on the inadequacy of the resources from the UK Government. These difficulties are amplified when the governments are made up of different political parties.

Activity 1 Local government discussion

Watch this discussion on local government funding from March 2019. Why would this be confusing to the general public?

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Transcript: Video 1 Local government discussion

Cwestiwn pump, Lynne Neagle.
Can the Minister provide a statement on funding pressures in local government?
Certainly – the Welsh Government is committed to protecting local government and the services they provide. Local government in all areas of Wales have received the best possible state settlement with the 1% reduction announced at the 2018/19 final budget turning to a 0.2% increase this year.
Minister, due to Tory austerity, Torfaen council has had no option but to increase council tax this year in order to protect vital services, namely social care and education. I'm very proud that in Torfaen we have a Labour council that is prepared to take those decisions to protect our local services. The leader of UKIP knows nothing about the financial pressures facing the local authority in Torfaen, and I am sure that you would agree with me, Minister, that all the low hanging fruit is now gone in local authorities, and they are facing a genuine struggle to survive. Last week, the Leader of Torfaen told the Children, Young People and Education Committee that he had protected education as he believes it is a key preventative service. I very much agree with that view. Do you agree with that view, Minister? And given the very hard-hitting evidence the committee has received about the funding pressures in schools, what steps will you take to ensure that education is prioritised in the next budget round?
Yes, I absolutely welcome the prioritisation which Torfaen and indeed many other authorities are giving to education and social services, in what is indeed a very difficult settlement for most local authorities. We recognise the challenges for authorities and the difficult choices they're making, as I said earlier on savings and changing services, and the decisions they're having to make on council taxes in order to balance the budget. As I said, in between the indicative settlement and the actual settlement we managed to increase the funding for local government to reflect some of the specific priorities that they had stressed to us, around education and social services, and we certainly do welcome that priority. But there's no doubt that austerity is biting deep into local services, and very difficult choices have to be made across all councils.
Minister, the leader of Caerphilly Council said recently that the authority was at the end of their tether after a receiving a real downturn in its funding. As a result, residents of Caerphilly have seen their council tax increase by nearly 7% combined with a £14 million cut in council services. These cuts to services include Pontllanfraith leisure centre which could close by end of June this year, in spite of fierce opposition from the local community. Does the minister accept that her poor local government settlement will have a serious and detrimental effect on Welsh Government strategies for the health, education and wellbeing of people living in Caerphilly, please?
Local authorities will receive £4.2 billion of general funding to spend on services in 2019/20, and core funding will increase by 0.2% on a like-for-like basis compared to 2018/19, and in line with our programme for government commitment to provide funding for a settlement floor, the settlement includes £3.5 million fully funded by the Welsh Government to ensure that no authority has to manage with a reduction more than 0.3% in its aggregate external finance next year. We have done the very best we can to put an umbrella over our local authorities and their services from the incredibly cruel austerity programme implemented by the Conservative government that Mohammad Asghar supports and presumably voted for. The idea that you can separate out a decision to continue with an austerity programme for 9 years from the destruction of local services in your local authority is quite extraordinary, and you really need to look at looking to see what the unintended consequences of your own policies are on the services that you're talking about before you look anywhere else. Because there is absolutely no doubt that, as Lynne Neagle just said, there is no low hanging fruit here, we are cutting into the bone of services which local people, as he has rightly said, really, really value, and they don't want those services closed, and the only way of stopping that happening is to reverse the very cruel austerity programme that your government has been implementing.
End transcript: Video 1 Local government discussion
Video 1 Local government discussion
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