Kirsty Williams AM, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has written to the First Minister today stating that her party will vote against the Local Government Settlement unless a better deal for rural authorities is put forward.
The Welsh Government published its draft settlement 2016-17 for local authorities last week. While the cuts to Local Government in the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget were less than feared, the Welsh Government’s formula to distribute the money to local authorities has meant that rural councils have been disproportionately hit.
Last year the Welsh Government introduced a ‘funding floor’ which better protected rural councils, however this year it has not done so.
Kirsty Williams AM, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:
“There is absolutely no way we could support cuts that hit rural areas so badly.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats are clear that we will vote against the Local Government Settlement unless action is taken to mitigate these cuts. We are calling on the Welsh Government to introduce a rural grant that would limit the reductions for the councils worst hit.
“I have been discussing this issue with Government Ministers to persuade them to introduce a grant. The fight for a better deal in rural communities is not over, as the council settlement is still in draft form. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are leading the fight for a better funding deal for our communities.
“In the longer term, we need a fairer funding formula that recognises the higher costs that rural authorities face in delivering key public services.”
The letter says:
Dear First Minister.
There is an acceptance that the funding formula which underpins the distribution of the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) routinely disadvantages rural councils. Your government recognised this in last year’s Local Government Settlement, which is why you rightly introduced a floor to mitigate excessive cuts to rural communities.
With this in mind, the Welsh Liberal Democrats are extremely alarmed that measures have not been taken in this year’s Provisional Local Government Settlement 2016-17 to help mitigate cuts to rural communities. In particular, the rural counties of Powys and Ceredigion are facing substantial cuts in funding of up to 4.1%, which will have a significant impact on the delivery of public services, with costs often far higher than those in more urban areas.
I am writing to inform you that based on the current proposals, my party cannot vote in favour of the Local Government Settlement 2016-17. We urge you to consider the introduction of a grant to limit the reductions in the local government revenue settlement for the councils worst hit, in recognition of the higher costs that rural authorities face in delivering key public services.
Kirsty Williams AM