Wednesday 8 January 2014

Plaid sets out alternative budget proposals for Carmarthenshire

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."


Anonymous said...

Sounds good, but I'm note sure how workable many of them are. Last year it was proposed that national 1% rise in wages not be applied in Carmarthenshire, instead plaid would have split the 1% differently through the council. It sounds like a great idea and then- you end up moving away from nationally agreed pay awards, and they didn't present a formula in the meeting.

There are similar problems with some of their proposals- the Welsh outcomes grant is dependant on performance and is therefore temporary. I understand that is the reason why the grant is put into the capital fund, rather than into revenue. Also, if it comes out of the capital fund, Plaid will have to spell out which schools and capital projects they wish to take out of the capital programme which is already on a thin thread. I'm sure Winston Lemon will advocate the money coming from the much awaited funds for a New school in Glanymor, for instance. While it sounds like a good idea, I'm not sure if a temporary grant should, be used for revenue.
CWM is probably a decent shout, despite there not being much information on what money they hold. I'm not sure that it will be and much as plaid think, but a Contribution of sorts would be welcome.
On senior pay- hasn't the council agreed to a pay review body? I'm sure they did so early last year.

Anonymous said...

CWM is doing as nicely as ever - accounts to Dec 12 have pre-tax profit of £0.5M (2011 £.688M). Mind you, with its parent (the council) being its main customer, can't quite get my head around how or why they charge so much so as to make such a profit. You would think being a service they should charge to break-even. Like car-parking (is supposed to charge). A good back door route for donations such as to Towy Community Church I suppose. It looks like senior salaries are pretty good too - £81k for highest paid, with a healthy pension pot to boot. Net Current Assets (cash in bank, plus money due in from customers, less due out to suppliers etc.) was £3.1M.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that someone has been economical with the truth, insofar as senior officers salaries are concerned. I am sure that more than just three senior officers earn over £130,000. Then I heard that some get bonuses for achieving targets set for them, i.e. targets their staff and not they that achieve them.

Anonymous said...

The number of middle management needs to be reviewed too. Far too many of them especially within the social care department. Need more hands on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 16.53 Ah, Cwm Environmental. As this is 'wholly owned' by the council it would be interesting to find out the rules on contributions to council funds. Unfortunately there is no longer a councillor representing the taxpayers on the Board of Directors, it was deemed unnecessary...

Anonymous said...

If CWM only made Half a million in 2013 the puplic should be up in arms.