Wales threatened with 'a decade of austerity'

Many council services to be cut by a half

Working people in Wales face a decade of austerity with year on year spending cuts according to a new report – and that’s the best case scenario!

Both the optimistic and pessimistic predictions for the future show austerity continuing apace until at least 2020-21.

In the worst case scenario, described as "likely", spending would be cut by a fifth but, with some essential services protected, other services could be cut by more than half.

The situation is outlined in a new report by The WLGA, the body that represents Welsh councils, and is described (accurately!) as a range of bleak financial forecasts for Welsh public services in the wake of spending cuts and reforms to the UK Welfare system proposed by the UK Government.

The report by the Welsh Local Government Association certainly makes grim reading as it sets out a looming catastrophe – or in its words ‘a hugely challenging future’. The WLGA points out that local government finances are already under pressure in Wales, with per person spending having already fallen by 8.4 per cent in real terms since its peak in 2009-10 and that further spending cuts are also threatening core services.

It warns that councils are already being squeezed and that with three quarters of the cuts still to come, the cuts and the pressures on local government finances are only just beginning.

The findings of the report show that the financial situation for Welsh local authorities will be tough until at least 2020-21, with even the most optimistic set of financial assumptions meaning Wales could see a 1.6 percent reduction in per person spending power in 2021 compared to 2013.

But a far bleaker situation, described as a likely scenario due to the continued weakness in the economy and the state of wider UK public finances, could see council spending power reduced by as much as 18 per cent. Protection of some public services could force councils to cut unprotected services by as much as 52 per cent.

The WLGA does an effective job in setting out the enormity of the situation but fails to put forward a strategy for defending public services and communities in Wales. Instead it talks of redoubling efforts around public service ‘reform’, taking ‘difficult decisions’, and cutting or scaling back a ‘vast array’ of services that councils have traditionally delivered.

But the WLGA does want councils to 'innovate' to mitigate the negative effects of spending cuts and welfare reforms to protect local communities! Working class people in Wales need more than the protection of a policy of the dented shield when the scale of the assault on our class, communities and services would leave the shield and the people sheltering behind it more pulverised than dented.

So it falls to us – the Socialist Party, Welsh Shop Stewards Network and TUSC, to draw the necessary conclusions and then act upon them promptly and in a sustained way.

We should redouble our efforts to ensure the best possible turnout from Wales to join workers and trade unionists from the rest of Britain for the TUC March against Austerity on 20 October, intensify the pressure on the TUC to call a 24 hour general strike to kick out the Con Dems and work to build a mass workers party.

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