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Leanne Wood, Bae Watch (December 2013)

(December 01, 2013)

Bae Watch; with Leanne Wood

Leanne Wood - Senedd


There has rightly been public outrage at the spending cuts recently announced by Rhondda Cynon Taf council (RCT), which will impact on all people, in all of our communities. Plaid Cymru’s view is that the authority has not presented the least damaging options to the people of RCT. Little detail has been forthcoming to opposition councillors or the public. Most reasonable people understand that some cuts need to be made and that there are savings that can still be made within the authority. But the Labour cabinet’s proposals – out to consultation until December 2 – will impact severely on nursery education from April 2014. Children of three will only be educated on a part-time basis, instead of full time. This cut in provision will not be good for three to five-year-olds, either educationally or socially. Plaid Cymru cannot support the policy of watering down education for three and four-year-olds during their prime learning time. This cut will also threaten the viability of Welsh medium and faith schools in RCT. These schools often have pupils travelling significant distances to them and the cut to three to five-year-olds will also include their transport costs. Plaid Cymru wants the authority to use its healthy reserves to plug the gap in nursery education. Children who are full time now, should stay full time.

In addition to the cuts to education, a host of libraries and day centres also face closure. Hundreds of thousands of pounds has been spent upgrading these facilities in recent years - what a waste of public money.

Insufficient detail has been presented to enable alternative proposals to be presented. The council has known these cuts have been coming for some time. They appear not to have planned for them. Also the council has failed to demonstrate that those in the top positions are prepared to feel some of the pain too. Plaid Cymru has made it clear that in the first instance, the local authority needs to show that it understands the unfairness of the politics of austerity. To do that, it must show that it is prepared to adhere to the principle that "we are all in this together". Plaid Cymru councillors have put forward some alternatives along these lines. Top officers earning more than £50k should take a pay and/or perks cut of at least 5%. All councillors should take a similar cut of 5% and cabinet councillors and committee chairs should take a 10% reduction. This would help begin the process of 'flattening the pyramid'. Party of Wales councillors have already agreed to take a voluntary cut in allowances of at least 5%. They are of the view that it would be wrong for council members to continue to pick up full allowances while services and people’s jobs are being cut around them.

Plaid Cymru also wants to see an end to the office of mayor, and the council’s official limousines returned. A council chair on basic expenses can still raise money for good causes.

The council should axe the Outlook magazine - its propaganda outlet - and take other steps to reduce its £1 million communications department.

Plaid Cymru would support a cut in the number of councillors when the boundary review comes around in 2017 and a merger of councils' overheads costs. We want to see the council undertake a full review of all consultants' expenditure to see what can be saved.

Serious consideration must now be given as to what can be done to bring income into the council. Social enterprises to raise new funds have great potential.

Wrexham council – which hasn't outsourced its council housing – has installed solar panels on all of its council housing. It is saving tenants’ energy bills as well as making money for the authority to plough back into services.

Another way to build in an element of future-proofing against the politics of austerity is to build a fund - joining together all available cash, for example, in credit unions, wind-farm money, anything that can be secured from government, lottery etc. to pull together a youth enterprise fund. This fund could act as a source of seed-funding for young people to set up their own businesses, with pay back clauses for those that end up being successful.

Only by thinking creatively, can we hope to find a way to balance the council's books without the harm that will be done by the proposals put forward by RCT’s Labour cabinet.

The one month consultation is almost up. It is nowhere near long enough. It should be extended to three months. It makes no sense to consult on these proposals now, only to then announce more spending cuts as soon as this consultation closes. An extension will give enough time to ensure everyone knows about the proposals and are able to respond. Plaid Cymru has held a series of public meetings and it is clear that many people are still unaware of the full implications, despite publicity in the local media.

None of these decisions is easy. The council's overall budgetary situation is not of their choosing. But in the Party of Wales, we disagree with Labour’s priorities and the earmarked cuts. Whatever decisions are made, Plaid Cymru says that they should be fair, with compassion and with an eye to the future - of our young people and, indeed, the viability of our communities.

Leanne Wood AC/AM
Leader of Plaid Cymru, December 2013

Also from Leanne Wood:
     Bae Watch; September 2013

     Bae Watch; June 2013
     Bae Watch; March 2013
     Bae Watch; December 2012
     Bae Watch; September 2012
     Bae Watch; June 2012
     Bae Watch; March 2012
     Bae Watch; December 2011
     Bae Watch; September 2011
     Bae Watch; June 2011

Leanne Wood's contact details:

     Facebook: Leanne Wood
     Twitter: @LeanneWood



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