Carmarthenshire County Council will unveil its plans for a programme of massive budget cuts in the next few weeks. In addition to hundreds of job losses, they are likely to include huge increases in charges for council services, the end of free school transport for children aged 16+, outsourcing to rip-off merchants in the private sector and cutbacks to spending on coastal defences, road and bridge maintenance.
The list of 51 targets which was published at the end of 2013 was put together by the council's officers and was headed by cynical attacks on soft targets such as trade union support and the Welsh language, where the savings will be negligible and the damage immense.
Back in November council leader Kevin Madge launched a vitriolic attack on the opposition Plaid group. He took the difficult decisions while they ran away from responsibility, he claimed.
Peter Hughes Griffiths responded by inviting Kevin Madge and other members of the Labour Independent coalition to a meeting to discuss Plaid's own budget proposals.
The meeting is unlikely ever to take place because Kevin Madge and Pam Palmer insisted that they would only meet opposition councillors if council officers took part in the meeting. Which goes to show who is really running the show.
Concluding that a meeting on those terms would be a waste of time, the Plaid group has now published an outline of its plans, which it says would avoid compulsory redundancies, raising charges and service cuts.
The Plaid options would make over £7 million available against the required policy savings of £4.3m. This would spare all the services listed for cuts or increased charges by the Council for 2014-15. Furthermore, the highly-unpopular hike in charges for the use of sports facilities – rushed in by the Executive Board before the budget discussions started – would not have to be implemented.
The savings would be achieved by a combination of measures including accepting applications for early retirement; taking a larger share of profits made by CWM (the council's waste recycling firm); selling part of the council's bloated property portfolio; allocating half of the Welsh government's outcome grant to the revenue account; taking £1 million out of reserves, including reserves set aside for non-active projects; and trimming the budgets of the council's various communications operations, including replacing the newspaper with an annual information sheet.
In its statement, the Plaid group says that it, "notes that the salaries paid to senior officers in Carmarthenshire are amongst the highest in Wales. The Chief Executive earns £180,000+ (more than the UK Prime Minister); four other senior officers earn £130,000+ (the same as Cabinet Ministers) and another 19 Heads of Service £80,000+ (much more than MPs). This is a source of great public resentment. We believe a cross-party group should review the situation, with a view to setting reasonable salary scales for future appointments."