Welsh Labour will today say that a Tory decision to cut local government budgets, combined with a new promised council tax freeze, would effectively end non-statutory services in Wales – as well as decimate schools’ budgets and slash social care.
A 12% cut would mean £200m out of the budget to protect the most vulnerable children and adults in Wales. In England, George Osborne has given councils permission to raise council tax by 2% specifically to counter huge social care budgets – but even this desperate measure would be denied councils in Wales. Delayed Transfers of Care – also known as bed-blocking – has been dropping in Wales, thanks to Welsh Labour social services investment – in England, DTOC figures are on the up.
£300m would be cut from education budgets through the local government settlement, with more set to go as the Tories refuse to protect stand-alone grants like the Pupil Deprivation Grant and the School Uniforms Grant for poorer pupils.
Cut tax and spend?
Despite their pledge to be a low tax party – the Tories are continuing to make costly, unfunded spending commitments. For example, introducing a £400-a-week cap on residential care, and raising the capital limit to £100,000 will cost in the region of £50million. The Tory council tax freeze would cost at least £15m a year, but again there is no information on where this comes from.
According the Election Compass website, the Welsh Tories say they strongly agree with the statement that “The Welsh Government should cut taxes wherever possible, even if it reduces their own budget.”
Despite repeated challenges through the course of the last Assembly, the Tories have never disowned, or recalculated their dodgy budget dossier figures from 2010 which signalled their 12.5% cut to council budgets. They confirmed the figures again in 2013, and despite protests from the only Tory run-council in Wales, refused to re-think planned education cuts of 12%.
Speaking about the planned cuts, Leighton Andrews said,
“The people of Wales will see through this two-faced Tory twaddle. Every week in the Assembly they call for more spending on housing, infrastructure and schools – and yet all their plans for the next five years mean slashing the funding for key local services. Figures we are releasing today show that they are planning to slash social care spending four times faster than the changes announced in the last George Osborne budget. The Tory plans for cuts mean the Welsh Tories make George Osborne look generous. The truth is that despite the cuts imposed by the Tories in Westminster, we have been able to offer a level of protection to Welsh councils this year, while keeping council tax lower than England and protecting schools and social services.”
Cllr Anthony Hunt, Deputy Leader of Torfaen council, and finance spokesperson for WLGA said,“Over the last five years, local government has had to go the extra mile to balance our budgets following the unprecedented Tory cuts. Only a Welsh Labour Government has shielded us from the worst of that – it hasn't been easy, but at least we’ve been able to keep alive the things that people love about their communities and invest in key services like schools and social care. By squeezing our finances at both ends – a cut to budgets, and a draconian ruling on council tax rates – the Tories will decimate local services and leave us powerless to prevent the widespread closures of valued local facilities.”