Dear Editor, The Plaid led Carmarthenshire County Council is expecting money from Welsh Labour Government who themselves are waiting to hear what the budget settlement will be from the Tory Government. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a great deal of foreboding exists in councils in Wales (likewise in England and Scotland) as to what the budget settlement will be this financial year -but all expect the settlement will be far short of what is needed just to maintain current services.
The Tories have proven during their tenure that they are no fans of local government savagely cutting council and Welsh and Scottish Government budgets. A few councils in England have already issued section 114 notices declaring themselves technically bankrupt and more will follow, but it won’t be long before the first council in Wales does likewise followed by others if budget settlements are not significantly improved. While the Tories have lined the pockets of their super-rich friends at the expense of council jobs and services, we can expect no better from them. But what has the Welsh Labour Government and councils like Carmarthenshire done to fight for councils to be fully funded…… virtually nothing. Cllr Lenny is right when he says in the latter article that Carmarthenshire was £120 m worse off in real terms compared to 12 years ago but what has Plaid or previous administrations done to fight these cuts.
Council Leader Daren Price said in the same article ‘if we value public services then we have to invest in them’. But the council has taken no action to defend its budget let alone fight for a budget that will meet the needs of its workforce and the public. We believe councillors contributions in both articles are a softening up exercise to lay the ground for further cuts. We think the council are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when they say the number of primary schools is ‘unsustainable’ we would be unlikely to be having this discussion if the council’s budget had been sustained at 2010 levels. The closure of a school should be taken as a last resort because closing a school is likely to mean a longer journey for pupils that impact of their ability to learn. Closing a school is likely to have a detrimental impact on the local community with people leaving or not moving there as there is no school. Parents would have to travel further to get their children to school. How is it helping to promote the Welsh language when local schools are shut.
We have an alternative to cutting services and jobs; we have an alternative to making the workforce work harder for less causing stress and mental health problems to go through the roof. The deceased General Secretary of the RMT Bob Crow said ‘If you fight you wont always win but if you don’t fight you will always lose’ is this Plaid led council going to a Bob Crow or will they continue to act like the Roman Emperor Nero. Much of the council is in crisis and further cuts will debilitate the council further. We call on the council to put the needs of the communities they are supposed to serve first. Implement a needs led no cuts budget using borrowing and reserves etc to buy time build a mass campaign supported by the trade unions and local communities calling on other councils to do likewise to defeat the cuts and restore council funding to 2010 levels.
Mark Evans, Branch Secretary, UNISON Carmarthenshire County Branch