Council Leader Peter Fox has expressed dismay over Monmouthshire’s financial settlement from the Welsh Government for the year 2018/19. He has called on the government to base funding on a fairer system, acknowledging the problems rural counties face when providing services.
The amount to be received from the Welsh Government – £93m – is 1% less than the previous year and the settlement continues an eight-year run of real terms reductions to local government funding in Wales. This does not take into account the current inflation rate of 2.7% and therefore represents a 3.7% real term reduction in funding. While the average cut to Welsh councils is 0.5%, Monmouthshire’s 1% decrease, shared with five other counties, is the biggest in Wales.
In addition, the county’s allocation per head from the Welsh Government is the lowest in the country. The average per capita funding in Wales is £1,339 compared to Monmouthshire’s £1,001.
Calling the announcement “disappointing”, Councillor Fox was keen to stress that rural counties like Monmouthshire are confronted by particular challenges in offering services like social care, waste collection, transport and highways across a wide area. Indeed, the council has recognised these difficulties by prioritising the maintenance of locally accessible services to combat rural isolation.
Councillor Fox said: “This is a disappointing settlement for local government across Wales. The Welsh Government has chosen to use additional money passed to it by the UK government in ways that don’t best meet the needs of the people in Wales. Monmouthshire has yet again received one of the worst settlements in Wales with a real terms 3.7% cut, meaning there is now a difference of £338 between our per capita funding and the average for Wales. There seems to be absolutely no understanding in Cardiff Bay of what it takes to deliver public services in rural areas where the cost of living is higher than in urban areas. This antiquated funding formula needs to be scrapped and we need to find a fairer, more balanced way of meeting the needs of citizens living in our rural heartlands. If we don’t, we will just see the countryside de-populated which is a dreadful endpoint.”