Posted: Wed 15th May 2024

“Unpleasant times” ahead as council look for more cuts to bring in balanced budget – with future £28m hole for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

The Council Leader is ‘dreading this year’ as cuts are made, with a warning future years could be as bad as a further £28m needs to be saved through 25-26 and 26-27.

In what feels like a darker repeat of recent years, Council Leader Mark Pritchard said, “Lead Members are working with senior officers, and all staff across Wrexham Council, the ‘Change Board’, all to make savings. As I have said in the past, and will continue to say, no stone will be left unturned.

“There will be work with support from ourselves, politicians, and the officers, and we’ll see what comes forward in proposals. I think it’s important that we understand here that these are very difficult times, not just for us, not just for local authorities across Wales. Whatever we do now, we have to future proof this authority because there isn’t any extra money coming forward.

“We’ve done some extremely difficult things in the past, this will be the third time that I’ve had to sit through this process. We will continue to find the savings.

“But truthfully, they’re not savings are they? They are cuts. They are cuts to service areas. This will have an implication with regards to staffing, it is very difficult. We will be meticulous in what we do and we will work through it.”

Chief Executive Ian Bancroft said, “We will track very, very tightly all the proposals, and monitor them very, very tightly.

“Our plan for last year when we monitored the budget was to make sure we didn’t need to use unplanned use of reserves. That’s still the case.

“We have gone past the end of year and we still think that last year’s budget is at a decent position with that priority. That is exactly the same priority for this year, that we don’t need to use reserves in an unplanned way.

Mr Bancroft pointed to the ‘change’ work taking place, and the £1.8m remaining from the budget yet to find, which should come back before the summer to the Executive Board in public.

At that point there should be indications on the scope of the ‘big areas’ where huge savings will be made for the following two years, 25-26 26-27 , budgets

We asked for details around Education, if there were any positives on the horizon or uplifts in budgets, pointing to several schools that appear to have deep concerns over budgets and deficits.

Cllr Pritchard said , “No. There’s no positives here.

“We are working with not just education in schools, we’re working with social services, and social care, children’s services, we are working with the environment department – we are working with every department across Wrexham Council.

“It is important to note we have protected schools for a long time, we have been very generous with them, we’ve worked hard to give them what they want. Unfortunately, the cuts are that severe that we’ve had to incorporate education within that process.

“I can’t see any way through this other than every department, including education, having to work with us to find these savings.

“I know the Executive Board members didn’t really want to go into certain areas, but we’ve had to go into into these areas which in the past have been protected.”

“Nobody is immune from savings anymore. Nobody. No service, delivery area, education or social care. Nobody is. It us just the the climate that we live in now.

“I am dreading this year, and 25-26 could be as difficult. These are unpleasant times for all of us, I can assure you.

The Chief Executive confirmed the figures, and scale of savings / cuts that are expected, “Roughly £28 million over the years 25-26 and 26-27, on top of what we’ve taken this year. That is a very difficult outlook for local government and public services as a whole.”

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