Wrexham Labour Council has been accused of stashing money away in reserves while cutting vital frontline services. The decision has been branded a scandal by local Plaid Cymru campaigners.
Plaid Cymru’s Clwyd South spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor said campaigners against the closure of Plas Madoc Leisure Centre, libraries, community centres, bus services and the reduction of grass cutting would be horrified to learn that the council had enjoyed two unexpected windfalls recently.
In the first instance it had an underspend of £1.5 million against its anticipated budget for 2013-4 – including an unexpected additional £200,000 extra tax income.
Mr ap Gwynfor said:
“There’s been a lot of hand wringing by Labour councillors about the lack of money to run frontline services but we now find that they are able to salt away this unexpected windfall. That is little comfort to people who relied on bus services, community centres, leisure services and libraries that have all had their funding brutally cut. In some cases community councils or local voluntary groups have taken over these services but many have also been lost to the community.“A cynic would say that Labour is cutting hard now in the hope that people will forget when the next council election comes around in 2017. I have to say that people are incredibly angry with the way the council is allocating funding from its £200m budget and ignoring the wishes of the wider population. I don’t believe they will forget what this council had done in a hurry.”
Another unexpected windfall came in the shape of an underspend in the Equal Pay settlement to female workers at the council. Like other councils, Wrexham had put aside money – more than £6m – to settle the long-standing legal battle. However, when it was finally settled the total bill only came to £4m. The additional £2.2m has again largely been put into reserves.
Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru’s Wrecsam spokesperson, said:
“Everyone is aware that UK Government cuts have had an impact on council spending and Plaid Cymru is opposed to the idea that frontline services for some of our poorest communities should be cut to pay for the bankers’ bailout and tax cuts for millionaires.
"But this Labour Council can’t escape the blame for cutting certain services when it knew there were millions of pounds of extra income coming in. How difficult would it have been for the Executive Board to keep Plas Madoc open for another year while the Splash Community Trust was established? Instead they have chosen to maximise the misery by axeing key services now without giving communities a fighting chance to find alternative ways to keep services going.
"Future funding for key social services such as respite care is now facing the axe in the coming year, causing real stress for families who rely on that service.“To discover that there is extra money in the pot, as well as the perverse decision to keep on funding a mayor during this unprecedented period of cuts, is a scandal. Community councils and voluntary groups have stepped into the breach in many instances but many people are left asking what exactly our county council is for if it is not delivering those services?