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WELSH BUDGET A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, SAY COUNCILS

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The WLGA has welcomed the national assembly ...
The WLGA has welcomed the national assembly Budgetfor 2003-04 as a step in the right direction.

WLGA leader Harry Jones said:

'Cost pressures on local government continue to grow unabated. The increased resources, announced in the draft assembly budget, will help local authorities meet these additional pressures in the coming year. The association will continue in close dialogue with the assembly to press for greater scope for increasing investment in local government in future years to ensure the continuing provision of high quality services to the people of Wales.'

In the context of the UK Comprehensive Spending Review, WLGA finance spokesman Russell Goodway said:

'The WLGA acknowledges the priorities of the Welsh Assembly Government and sympathises with its commitment to addressing the continuing problems of the national health service, but it needs to be understood that current proposals would not represent a windfall for the rest of the public sector. The assembly will need to be realistic about what can be achieved by local authorities on the basis of this draft budget.'

Local authorities face significant cost pressures in the delivery of core services, particularly in relation to social services, education and transport. The WLGA will continue to work with the assembly to find ways of increasing investment in these areas in the future.

In the lead up to the draft budget, local authorities have lobbied the national assembly to recognise a growing number of cost pressures, which will hit local government in April 2003. The most significant of these pressures relates to pay and inflation; the increase in resources announced today will ensure that these additional costs can be met.

The indicative local government settlement will add£181m (6.2%) above the 2002-03 budget. This settlement assumes that the£30m earmarked for payment to authorities under the Performance Improvement Grant regime will be paid in full. The WLGA welcomes the recognition by the national assembly that authorities have met the performance standards required to pay this grant in full. The WLGA also welcomes the announcement of a£20m per annum deprivation grant, which will help authorities in the areas of greatest need.

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