COUNCILS across Wales will be “forced to cut essential services”, a union has warned, as authorities face a collective funding gap of more than £200m.
Waste collections, leisure centres, nurseries and other vital services will all be hit according to the findings based on information from local authorities in Wales, in a new Unison report.
The report finds that Ceredigion County Council faces a budget shortfall of £6.8m, while Gwynedd must find £5.5m.
Powys Council faces a budget gap of £3.1m, the report outlines.
The report shows that Cardiff Council is set to have the largest funding gap of all the authorities in Wales at £44.9m, with Pembrokeshire County Council facing a £20.3m shortfall.
The record shortfall, totalling £201.6m across the 22 councils in Wales in 2023/24, means local authorities will be forced to rely on dwindling reserves, and cut services and jobs, Unison said.
The report also shows there is “worse to come” with the cumulative funding gap rising even further in 2024/25 to over £327.5m.
Unison said that “skyrocketing inflation, energy costs and the economic impact of the mini budget mean that the actual shortfall will be many times higher”, and that the “picture is likely to get bleaker still” after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt spoke of further cuts to the public sector, which are likely to compound the crisis in local government funding.
“And as the cost-of-living crisis deepens and inflation soars, even greater strain will be placed on councils as their costs increase and demand grows for food banks and other support,” the union said.
“Even more services – as well as jobs – will be at risk if councils have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt.”
Unison Cymru Wales head of local government Darron Dupre said: “Local authorities provide the essential services everyone relies on such as waste collection, road repairs, and children’s care.
“But cash-strapped councils are having to resort to ever more desperate measures after years of austerity just to keep services going.
“Now the UK government looks set to make their predicament infinitely worse with emergency cuts to spending following the mini-budget fiasco.
“Council funding is a devolved issue, but the Welsh government remains heavily dependent on funding from Westminster.
“The Welsh government has done its best to limit financial challenges faced by councils, particularly during the pandemic, but additional money is needed in the longer term.
“Local communities across Wales cannot be the ones to pay the price for the government’s grotesque mismanagement of the economy.
“The new prime minister and chancellor must sort the crisis in local government funding and give councils the cash they need to save services.”