Monday 17 November 2014

Carmarthenshire schools facing massive budget cuts

The council's Executive Board will meet today to consider proposals for budget cuts, and as usual the documents available for inspection online are very badly formatted.

The starting point is that Aggregate External Finance, or in plain language the money the council receives from the Welsh Government, will be cut by 3.3.% or £8.7 million next year. The council has been told to expect this level of settlement in future years, and so as usual the draft proposals extend a further two years out to April 2018.

In presenting cuts, the council distinguishes between "managerial efficiencies" and "policy efficiencies". Managerial efficiencies are internal cost savings which are not meant to impact on services, while policy efficiencies are direct cuts to public services.

For 2015/16 managerial and policy efficiencies will contribute roughly equally to the targeted savings of £11.3m, while from 2016/17 onwards, cuts to services will form the bulk of projected savings.

There is no good news in any of this, unless you are in the council's press office which is set to be spared any serious damage once again. Although the Welsh Government has asked councils to give serious consideration to the financial burden council tax rises will place on households, we are in for another inflation-busting increase of 5%, and will be paying more for considerably less.

As in previous years, the council is expecting growing demand for social care and housing.

Something has got to give, and it seems as though that something will be education, although Welsh councils have been told that schools spending will be protected.

The proposals which will go before the Board tomorrow nevertheless provide for a modest £157,000 cut in school spending, made possible by efficiencies and an overall fall in pupil numbers, according to the council. On top of that is a raft of cuts which will hit schools and parents, but which technically don't come out of school budgets. These include charges for school transport and a new "administrative charge" for users of school buses.

At the same time, school reserves will be raided and driven down to zero.

Each school is responsible for what is called delegated spending, and while some schools have built up modest reserves, others are running at a deficit. Overall, they are expected to be in surplus by just over £3 million at the end of March 2015, but that piggy bank will disappear by 2017.

The real hammer blows will fall in 2016/17 and 2017/18, however, when schools will be expected to shoulder cuts totalling £14 million - slightly more than half of all projected savings for those two years. Although the report does not spell this out, the council is clearly expecting the government to end protection for the schools budget, and the decision by Huw Lewis, Labour's Education Minister in Cardiff, to claw back part of the schools budget this year may mean they are on to something. 

The report also notes that the council's youth service will be expected to take another hit, although spending on this age group in Carmarthenshire is already the lowest in Wales.

Combine that with the news that Carmarthenshire, and parts of the Amman Valley in particular, has some of the highest levels of child poverty in Wales, and you have to wonder why children and young people are being singled out to take most of the pain.

The answer is simple. The over 60s vote and the under 35s don't.


Redhead said...

The under 35s are starting to wake up.

Anonymous said...

Should we not be tracing back from hence the cuts are being generated - Cardiff- Westminster .
Cardiff is insisting that NHS is fully protected and that Education can not be cut so where is it to come from= non statuary services i.e. libraries, museums, leisure centres etc etc
Until Cardiff get a proper budget from Westminster and Cardiff reviews its top heavy staffing structure the councils iand the residents will see their services cut & then cut again

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@14.54 - you're right that the cuts are coming down from Cardiff and Westminster. Let's not forget also that Labour is committed to continuing Osborne's austerity programme.

I suspect that Labour in Wales has decided to pump money into the NHS to ward off more attacks from the Tories ahead of the election, with everything else suffering as a result.

As you can see from the Carmarthenshire budget proposals, the real pain won't be felt until after the election.

Now there's a coincidence!

Anonymous said...

'... Amman Valley in particular, has some of the highest levels of child poverty in Wales, and you have to wonder why children and young people are being singled out .....'.

No, you have to wonder why people living in such poor parts of Wales are still having children. And who do they think has the responsibility to look after all these children?

They do!

gaynor said...

Should we only limit impregnation to Llandeilo and Llangadog, Penllwyn park in Carmarthen and a few choice postcodes on the outskirts of CNE. Ban sex in Pencader, Llanybydder and Park Hall? Don't worry the population are too old to begat kids in most of the rural areas of Carmarthen down to the influx of pensioners filling up rural villages.