Ceredigion’s spending cuts to devastate capacity of Aberystwyth services

THE WELSH Government has announced considerable financial cuts in an attempt to meet savings imposed by the UK government; local government funding is set to be cut by over 5.8% across Wales. Chief Executive of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) Steve Thomas, has estimated that Wales’s 22 councils will face cuts of £660m all-together.

Welsh Assembly Government Buildings

Welsh Assembly Government Buildings

Ceredigion Council’s 40-point plan was approved by Cabinet last November, and aims to find £9.6m worth of savings during the next financial year, along with £20.8m over the next three years. However this is to be discussed further after queries by three Liberal Democrat Councillors.  As of yet, the plans propose several areas for spending cuts including the following:

  • A 5% council tax inflation
  • Meals on wheels costs to rise from £3.50 to £5
  • The closure of Borth Tourist Information Centre
  • Saving £18,000 through the moving of adult day services from London House in Aberaeron
  • Cancellation of £44,000 fund for the Llandysul swimming pool
  •  Saving £150,000 by axing funds for CCTV across the county
  • Reductions in road cleaning and green verge cutting services
  • The closure of libraries in Tregaron and New Quay (for which mobile libraries were suggested)

The axing of CCTV funds across the country has proved controversial, with councilors and police officers warning that the loss could lead to an increase in crime and have a major impact on the work of those serving in the force. Cllr John Roberts noted that officers have told him this cut will result in the forces incapability to call on support from the CCTV system. Council Chief executive Bronwen Morgan is reportedly in discussions with the police over this matter.

Cuts to funding and grants for institutions in varying sectors in Aberystwyth have begun to prove ‘devastating’, as a result, many are taking measures to secure their capacity for services offered. The National Library of Wales,NLW, is appealing to the public for donations in order to prevent ramifications arising from cuts to its grant by the Welsh Government. The £10m grant that the library receives annually will be reduced by 2% over the next two years, whilst National Insurance is reported to increase by 3%. NLW’s Chief executive, Aled Gruffydd Jones, warned that the library will see a decrease of 7% in revenue income over 2014 and 2015, amounting to a reduction of about £1.2m.

Due to this income drop, the cuts will result in further dismissals. Mr Jones said: “While reductions in staff cannot be avoided in such circumstances, no firm plans have been agreed on. Much depends on the final form of the strategic plan which will be considered by the board of trustees on the 21st of February.” He added that in an effort to balance the NLW’s shortened budget, an offer has already been made to staff to apply for voluntary redundancy and early retirement.

Ceredigion theatres are also under threat and could soon face reductions in staff. The council has identified £56,000 provided to the Mid Wales Entertainment Circuit, the MWEC, which was established in 1982, as funds which could potentially be put towards the financial gap it will face and aim to fill over the next few years. Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Theatr Felinfach and Theatre Mwldan could see a cutback of up to £16,000 each, in addition to other decreases in grants from the council. Director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Gareth Roberts, stated that: “It’s plain and obvious to see that this will have a detrimental impact on our budgets and artistic provision, particularly when this is compounded by a likely four per cent cut to our core funding from Ceredigion council, a combination of cuts that will be truly devastating.” Ryan Davies, Theatre Mwldan’s general manager said, “We believe the council doesn’t understand the role of the MWEC.” The council have noted that the grant cut from the MWEC will have less of an impact than cutting individual grants. A December report to the council’s cabinet stated that; “withdrawal from this partnership would generate savings with limited impact on provisions or standards”.

Another move by the council to ease the effects of the cuts is the sale of empty buildings which it owns around the county, in the hopes of attaining around £2.2m. These buildings include the old Aberystwyth library; worth around £250,000, the old schools in Blaeporth, Capel Cynon, Gwenlli, Llanllwchaearn and Rhydlewis; which are selling for a combined total of £745,000, the old Swyddfa’r Sir and courthouse building on Aberystwyth’s seafront – an iconic building which boasts a hefty £1m price tag.

In reference to the 40-point plan, council leader Ellen ap Gwynn said that the authority was prepared for the public backlash, however, she affirmed that the cuts were necessary due to the axing of funds by the Welsh Government. Mrs Gwynn stated:

“We’re not doing this because we want to do it; I didn’t become leader because I wanted to cut services. We’re going to have a backlash, this won’t appeal to everyone but it’s something we’re going to have to work through.”

This January the council leader warned that Aberystwyth could be threatened once again by the high tides and flooding due in February. She added that she was disappointed with the Welsh Secretary David Jones’ comments that Wales will most likely not receive extra money to handle flood repairs. While surveyors are still gauging the coast of repairing the damage to the Ceredigion coast, it has been estimated to run into the millions of pounds. Alun Williams, Ceredigion cabinet member for highways, said that it is inevitable that the council will need funding from central government to help with repairs and rebuilding.