Local Government Expert Warns of Welsh Councils Faci Ng Financial Crises

Article excerpt

Byline: Abby Alford

WALES' 22 local authorities face swingeing cutbacks as they struggle to balance the books, a former council leader warned last night.

Jeff Jones, once of Bridgend Council, now a local government consultant, said the financial crisis engulfing Cardiff council will be repeated at authorities across the country.

Jobs are set to go at Cardiff Council as the authority begins a drive to save pounds 21m.

Leader Rodney Berman has blamed the council's worst financial crisis in years on Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He said his spending decisions, including the decision to spend pounds 37bn bail-inout the banks, mean the council faces a real-terms spending cut.

Low interest rates also mean income from investments has been drastically cut.

Mr Jones, the former Labour leader at Bridgend, said although they have not talked about it openly, other councils are facing the same problems.

"Local government is in this position definitely up to 2017. It is as bad as that," said Mr Jones.

"It isn't local government crying wolf."

Cardiff Council is making immediate plans to bring down the number of people it employs as it tries to cut its spending by pounds 21m within two years. Initially, this is being done through publicising an offer of voluntary redundancy, but the council has been unable to rule out compulsory redundancies.

Cutbacks will also hit backoffice and administrative functions to protect schools and social services.

But such is the scale of the savings being sought that the councillor responsible for Cardiff council's finances, Mark Stephens, said it was impossible for him to rule out slashing frontline services in the future.

Mr Jones said similar tough choices will be faced by administrations all over Wales. …