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WELSH LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING SETTLEMENT: COUNCILS RESPOND

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The Welsh Local Government Association has welcomed the increase in general funding for local government in Wales f...
The Welsh Local Government Association has welcomed the increase in general funding for local government in Wales for 2002-03 which has been announcedby Edwina Hart. However, the WLGA has expressed disappointment that new responsibilities for local authorities have not been adequately funded.

Association leader Harry Jones said:

'The Welsh assembly government has again provided a higher increase in general funding for local government in Wales compared to England, and Welsh local government will acknowledge this level of support. We applaud the continued commitment from Edwina Hart that there will be no hypothecation of the general revenue settlement, leaving councils free to decide on their spending priorities locally.

'We also welcome the earlier announcement of the final settlement which will assist councils in planning their budgets.'

The settlement assumes an average increase in council budgets of 8 per cent but, within that figure, there are significant amounts of new funding for free bus travel for pensioners from April 2002 (£16.5m) and£38m for the transfer of preserved rights to income support and residential allowances from the department for work and pensions.

The association has been lobbying the Welsh assembly government to take account of its concerns surrounding the underfunding of the teachers' threshold pay arrangements and the increase in employers' pension contributions for teachers.

'The WLGA remains concerned about the effect of the failure to fund in full threshold pay for teachers and a range of other new responsibilities and pressures that face councils. As things stand the assumed increase in council spending has to cover these costs, and the result for many services may be little or no real growth. We hope that, when the settlement is debated on 24 January, the minister will signal her willingness to consider providing additional funding during the course of the next financial year to meet the full cost of threshold pay.

'We welcome the significant increase in resources for capital investment. However we are concerned by the rapid move away from local discretion towards central hypothecation by the assembly. It seems inconsistent with the approach that the Assembly is taking on revenue funding.'

Note

The local government finance report for 2002-03 which sets out the amount of general grant and how it is to be distributed between councils and police authorities will be debated by the national assembly on Thursday 24 January.

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