Responsibility for council tax rises must lie squarely at the feet of the Welsh Government, according to the Montgomeryshire Assembly Member, Russell George.
Speaking in a Welsh Conservative debate on local government funding this week (Wednesday 27th March), the Mid Wales AM joined the Leader of Powys County Council in calling for a comprehensive and independent review of the local government funding formula which is used to assess Welsh Government funding of local authorities across Wales.
Speaking in the debate in the National Assembly chamber, Mr George said:
“We must begin to address the situation whereby Powys is consistently dealt a raw deal when it comes to local government funding from the Welsh Government.
“Powys has had the poorest or joint poorest budget settlement in nine of the last ten years - an unsustainable situation which has inevitably affected the delivery of essential local services.
“This year, Powys has received a cut in its funding whereas local authorities in South Wales such as Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taf have had increases in their funding.
“The funding formula is simply not fit for purpose any longer and doesn’t adequately reflect the fact that Powys has a sparsely populated, disproportionately elderly population.
Mr George told Assembly Members in the Senedd debate that Powys’ increasing ageing population is going to put an even greater burden on the Councils funding.
“Powys’ elderly population is predicted to increase from 11% of the total population to 23% by 2039. This is a rate that is significantly greater than the national average and can be partly attributed to the many people choosing to move to the most beautiful County in Wales to retire.
“A consequence of an increasing ageing population is that the demand and the complexity of care increases and this, in turn, increases the cost of delivering these services.
“I can appreciate the frustration of council tax payers in Powys who will end up paying more for less but it is clear that the difficult decisions which Powys County Council has had to make, are a direct result of the pressure which the Welsh Government is heaping on Powys County Council, year after year.
The vote calling for on the Welsh Government to commission an independent review of the Welsh local government funding formula was voted down in the Senedd on Wednesday evening.
Speaking after the debate, Mr George said:
“It’s high time that all of Powys’ Assembly Members come out fighting for rural mid Wales and they should have voted, as I did, for an immediate independent review of the local government funding formula.”
Notes to Editors
Russell George AM spoke in favour of the following Welsh Conservative motion proposing an independent review of local government funding on Wednesday 27th March in the Senedd:
Welsh Conservative Debate - Local Government Funding
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
1. Recognises the important role played by local authorities in delivering public services across Wales.
2. Acknowledges the funding challenges currently faced by Welsh local authorities.
3. Notes that Welsh council taxpayers currently pay a higher proportion of their income on council tax than in England or Scotland.
4. Regrets that
a) the level of council tax in Wales has trebled since the formation of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999; and
b) the level of council tax in Wales has risen at a faster rate than in England and Scotland.
5. Calls on the Welsh Government to commission an independent review of the Welsh local government funding formula.