In response to a misleading and disappointing letter by the Leader of the Labour Group at Monmouthshire County Council, Cllr Dimitri Batrouni in last week’s Monmouthshire Beacon; Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Conservative Cllr Peter Fox has written to the Beacon reminding readers and the Labour group of the hard work put in by officers of the Council over the last financial year; and the need for Labour to contribute to finding solutions to the problems their own Party have placed on us, rather than criticising good financial management of the Conservative-led council.
I write in response to the misleading and disappointing letter last week by Cllr Batrouni.
I was pleased that the officers of the County Council have worked so hard during the 2012/13 financial year to maintain services through what was a very challenging financial situation; I was pleased that the majority of these services were delivered on budget or slightly below – this is good financial management.
The year’s underspend of £877,000 equates to less than 1/2 per cent of the Council’s annual spend. The budget for that year was supported by some funding from reserves, which can now be paid back in readiness to help with the horrendous cuts that are to be levelled on the Council by the Labour Government in Cardiff.
The Council was expecting cuts next year 2014/15 of -1.6 per cent. Council Leaders were told last week by a Labour Government Minister that we should prepare for up to a -4.5% cut, which could mean up to £3,000,000 worth of additional savings to be found. Clearly this will present huge additional pressure and the need for sound financial management will be extremely important.
I must remind readers that Monmouthshire receives the lowest level of funding of all councils in Wales. But despite this the Conservative led Council has worked hard to keep services running unlike many ‘well funded’ Labour Councils who have chosen to close very valuable services like libraries, care homes and leisure centres.
We came out to talk to our communities last year about the challenges we face and will do so again this year, all decisions we have made were taken following consultation.
Services will have to change in these difficult times. We will need to find new ways of providing them and with the scale of cuts we are now expecting. I fear some things may have to stop.
Labour Cllrs did not contribute to finding solutions to the problems their own Party have placed on us but choose to criticise good financial management.
Cllr Batrouni talks of cuts from Westminster, but let me be clear The Welsh Labour Government have a choice over how they spend their money and they choose to slash the funding that the council uses to provide services.
Labour at all levels have always managed the public purse poorly and the Conservatives always have the difficult job of cleaning up the mess that follows.
In these difficult times I wish Cllr Batrouni and his Labour Cllrs in Monmouthshire would put some of the politicking aside and role their sleeves up and help us deal with the problems their party have created.
Cllr Peter Fox (Leader, Monmouthshire County Council)
18th June 2014