The Welsh Government has once again found itself at odds with leaders of Labour controlled local authorities in Wales over its local government funding formula.
During Assembly proceedings this week the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services, Alun Davies AM, told Mark Isherwood AM that the Welsh Labour Leader of Flintshire County Council - Aaron Shotton - had 'no wish to reopen the debate or discussions around the local government funding formula', despite Mr Shotton co-signing a letter last week which indicates otherwise.
The letter, written by both the Leader and Chief Executive of Flintshire County Council, states that "Whilst the need for a meaningful review of the Formula – as recommended by the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance in Wales (2016) (note 1) is a debate for another day – we ask that our local position is recognised and respected.The disparity in formula-based funding for Councils - as illustrated in Welsh Government’s own statistical bulletins - inevitably creates a wide variation in the financial risks to councils in Wales. Flintshire is at the extreme end of the continuum of risk".
North Wales Assembly Member - Mark Isherwood - described the Cabinet Secretary's comments as 'out of touch' and 'dismissive'.
The letter goes further by stating "Flintshire has made a direct approach to Welsh Government for financial assistance and relief in the past. In making these approaches we have set out, in some detail, why low funded councils per head of population under the Local Government Funding Formula, such as Flintshire, are most exposed".
This isn't the first time that Mr Davies has been at odds with local authority leaders in Wales, and he is widely expected to be replaced in any new Government due to the frail Local Government/Welsh Government relationship that he has created.
This controversy follows the news that politicians across all groups on Flintshire Council have united together to support the #BackTheAsk campaign which is aimed at lobbying the Welsh Government for a fair share of Welsh national funds and extra funding of £5.6 million. The authority was one of the worst hit by the provisional local government settlement from Cardiff with an overall reduction in its allocation of one per cent.
Speaking following the revelation of the letter, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government - Mr Isherwood - said:
"These comments once again show how out of touch the Welsh Government are with local authority leaders in its own party, never mind opposition parties.
"The Cabinet Secretary’s contradiction and dismissal of these concerns with this much complacency shows the level of respect that he has for local leaders in Wales. This was already clear from his Oliver Twist comments, but this cocky attitude adds insult to injury.
"Local Authorities might be praying for his replacement in the new Welsh Government, but a change of direction as well as personnel is required".