Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities
I am publishing today my proposals for the funding of Local Government in Wales for 2012-13. This includes details of the provisional allocations of the core unhypothecated funding provided through Revenue Support Grant (RSG) that each local authority may expect to receive for the forthcoming financial year table 1 attached. I am also announcing indicative allocations for 2013-14 and 2014-15. The allocations in respect of 2013-14 and 2014-15 are subject to revision in the light of the more up-to-date tax base and other relevant data. I am confident that the allocations provide a robust basis for forward planning by local authorities.
The settlement reflects the Welsh Government priorities of protecting schools and social care. These services are, in the main, delivered by local authorities.
I propose to set Revenue Support Grant (RSG) for 2012-13 at £4.019 billion, an increase of 0.24% on the previous year. My proposed RSG allocations for 2013-14 and 2014-15 are £4.072 billion and £4.094 billion, increases of 1.3% and 0.6% respectively. The aggregate effect of this is that I have been able to increase slightly local authority cash funding over the four year spending review.
Protection for Schools
In line with the First Minister’s commitment to protect schools in order to ensure the delivery of the best outcomes for Welsh children, the RSG includes the necessary resources to deliver a 1% protection above the change in the Welsh Government’s block grant each year. This equates to a commitment to increase the funding for education within the settlement by £80 million over a four year period. Recognising the need to minimise bureaucracy the monitoring arrangements have been developed in consultation with local government. They are simple and transparent focussing on schools budgets and will ensure that delivery of this commitment can be demonstrated.
Protecting the Vulnerable and Managing Pressures
The Settlement also maintains the commitment of the Welsh Government to protect the vulnerable in our society during these particularly difficult times.
Our collaborative work with local government on establishing and analysing the key service pressures and risks identified social services as a key area. The increasing costs, and in particular, the demand led demographic pressures that are increasingly impacting on service provision, were identified as a crucial area of concern. The Welsh Government recognises this concern and the protection afforded through the settlement will provide an additional £35 million by 2013-14 to enable local government to meet the pressures it faces on these vital services for young and old.
The Revenue Support Grant is an unhypothecated grant and together education and social services expenditure account for around two-thirds of grant related expenditure. In these extraordinary times, I fully acknowledge that protecting these services may put additional pressure on other services that Local Government provides but this was never going to be an easy process. The prudent use of other sources of funding including utilising income streams from fees and charges are options available to authorities to ease these pressures.
Individual Authority Allocations
Table 1 attached to this statement sets out the breakdown of the distribution of the Revenue Support Grant across the 22 authorities.
I am distributing the whole RSG pot for the benefit of all local authorities and their citizens in Wales. This will allow councils to freeze their council tax if they so choose. In doing so I expect them to reconcile this with the need to sustain services and without prejudicing the protection we are providing for schools and social care funding. The choice is theirs. It will be for each local authority to justify their decision on council tax to their citizens.
I expect local authorities to be forensic in their consideration of the balance between the need to sustain key services for their citizens’ benefit and the need to limit any additional pressure on hard-pressed households.
As in previous years, I stand ready to use the capping powers vested in Welsh Ministers to limit any increases that I consider unreasonable.
Overall the capital settlement including specific capital grants amounts to £424 million a reduction of 7.2% on the amount for 2011-12. While this is challenging, I have been able to protect the General Capital Fund grant within the Local Government portfolio. Provision for 2012-13 will be £54 million, the same level as for 2011-12.
I understand the desire of local government to roll specific grants into unhypothecated funding. However at the request of the WLGA that we revisit the Distribution Sub Group’s agreement to transfer the Learning Disabilities Resettlement Grant into the settlement, I have decided that, in order to avoid delaying this announcement, the future of the grant will be subject to further consideration. This grant is not being transferred into the settlement for the provisional announcement.
Further details of specific revenue grants will be provided to local authorities in due course to give as complete a picture of the overall funding position for local government for 2012-13 and following years.
In providing details of the settlement, today marks the start of a consultation period that will end on 18 November 2011.