Headlines: December 15th, 2004

Local councils in Wales are to share a further 27 million pounds on top of the 3.2 billion pound settlement announced for local government there last month. Assembly Local Government Minister, Sue Essex, said that on average local authorities in Wales would receive a funding increase of more than six per cent.She said the increase, more than twice the rate of inflation, would allow them to meet pressure from pay, prices and pensions as well as increasing support in school classrooms and paying for extra social care for people in their own homes.

The latest increase in support includes the full 7.4 million added to the Assembly Government’s budget following the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Pre Budget Report earlier this month. Councils are also benefiting from an extra 13.4 million as a reward for strong business growth. The Assembly Government had already announced an increase in Deprivation Grant designed to help local authorities serving the poorest communities.

Sue Essex said she recognised the funding pressures faced by councils and the concerns of local people about council tax rises. ” I have been impressed by the efforts that most councils are making to keep their spending increases down to around 5 per cent. Where spending is controlled in this way, with the extra money now available, I am confident that Councils will be able to set council taxes at reasonable levels even for those people who have moved up a band.

The deal was a good one for local government, she said, and it was now a matter for council leaders to manage their budgets at a local level.