The pledge is in line with the First Minister’s commitment to protect schools to ensure the best outcomes for Welsh children and to protect the vulnerable in our society during these particularly difficult times.
Announcing details of the Revenue Support Grant for the next three years, the Minister said that the funding of just over £4 billion that local authorities will receive next year represents a decrease of 1.4% on what they received last year when transfers of grant are taken into account. However, the plans for 2012-13 and 2013-14 will mean increases of 0.2% and 1.3% respectively.
Carl Sargeant said
“The funding I am announcing today is challenging as a result of the large reductions imposed on the Welsh Assembly Government’s budget from the UK Government.
“However, it reflects the Assembly Government’s priorities of protecting schools and social care and it represents a fair deal in the challenging economic climate that we find ourselves in.
“I am increasing the cash funding of local authorities over the three year period. This is in stark contrast to the position in England where local government core funding shows a decrease of 2.3% on a like for like basis.
“To safeguard local authorities facing a reduction of more than 1.7% in 2011-2012, I have retained a funding floor arrangement. This will be self-financing and, on the basis of the provisional settlement, 10 authorities will benefit from the mechanism.
“In line with the First Minister’s commitment to protect schools, the settlement includes the resources to deliver an increase in funding for education of around £61 million over the three year period.
“I am also honouring the Assembly Government’s commitment to protect the vulnerable in our society during these difficult times. An additional £35 million over the next three years will enable Local Government to meet the pressures it faces on these vital services for young and old.
“In terms of council tax, I am providing £32 million within the RSG settlement which is equivalent to the 2.5% the UK Government have allowed for their council tax freeze. Whilst I am providing equivalent funding I will be allowing local authorities to determine themselves whether they wish to use this funding for the purposes of freezing council tax or whether they will spend this on services. It will be for each local authority to justify their decision on this to their citizens.
“Local authorities will have many difficult decisions to take. The challenge of delivering good quality services for less money continues. Whilst there is heartening evidence of increasing cross-service and cross-authority collaboration, local authorities need to be more ambitious in the scale and pace of change if they are to meet the financial challenges that face them.
“In order to assist with this I have commissioned a review to look at the best configuration for service delivery in Wales and look forward to seeing early findings in the New Year.
“The settlement is a catalyst for further improvement. I am confident that local authority managers, trade unions and those at the front line of services will rise to the challenge and deliver for citizens across Wales.”