Nick Ramsay – 2008 Speech on Local Government in Wales

Below is the text of a speech made by Nick Ramsay on 29th January 2008. The speech is in Welsh and English below.

IN ENGLISH:

I am pleased to be able contribute to this important debate. Today, we have reached the end of the long road that we have travelled over recent months, during which we have had many debates and discussions, not only on the local government settlement, but on the other aspects of funding that various services will receive in this year and coming years. During that debate, we have thrashed out many reasons why we felt that local government should receive a much higher share of the budget.

I thank the Minister for involving me in meetings and in the Chamber in his thinking about where we were going. I am also pleased that he consulted the WLGA, but I do not think that he has taken on board my concerns or those of the WLGA, which only recently described the Assembly’s final budget as ‘tinkering at the edges’.

We welcome the extra funding and the fact that Conwy, Powys and similar authorities will not receive as low an increase in their revenue settlement grant as they were initially going to receive. However, let us be frank; it was unbelievable that Powys and Conwy ever faced increases of 1 per cent.

The rise to 2 per cent for those authorities is a marked increase, but it is still far short of what they will need to provide statutory services and to meet the responsibilities placed upon them.

We are looking at an RSG increase of 2.4 per cent. I hear what the Minister says about that being 3.3 per cent if you include all of the other elements. However, you know as well as I do that the key figure is the RSG, and it has not increased in line with inflation as it should have.

Listening to the Minister, I am reminded of what the Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery said in last week’s debate about what local government is receiving being equitable, given the overall amount from Westminster and given what authorities across the border are receiving. I take issue with both of those assertions.

The fact remains that the Assembly budget has almost doubled over the past decade, while the increase on the local government side is far smaller. I do not think that he has provided an answer to that. As for the argument that our local authorities receive far better funding than authorities over the border, I can provide him with a list of 10 authorities across the border that receive more per head of population. Therefore, I look forward to the Minister answering some of those points.

Look at what local authorities are being expected to deliver: provisions in the Childcare Act 2006 and the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006, rights of way improvement plans, and flood defences. Local authorities must deal with these issues over the coming years, but the money is not being provided to enable them to do that.

Yes, more money has been made available, and I am not going to be a total killjoy; we are pleased about that and the fact that local authorities are not going to receive the dismal settlement originally proposed. Let us be realistic, and let us listen to the WLGA.

On your point about council tax, we welcome, as does the council tax payer I am sure, the fact that we will not see huge increases, as was first feared. However, if you are going to cap council tax increases you must accept that it is almost like a deadly game of dominoes, because the need for capping is as the result of the settlement that you gave to local authorities in the first place.

Let us make no bones about that. I have probably been incorrect when I said during the last few debates on this issue that local authorities in Wales will have to choose between how much they give to local services, and what they do with council tax. It is clear to me now that you are saying to local authorities that the axe will have to fall squarely on local services. I cannot see how that can be avoided if you are telling authorities that they can only spend a certain amount, and no more.

Let us be realistic about this. Yes, we can bandy figures about, and it is interesting to see in the finance report the amount that the Assembly Government has given to support local authorities that are carrying heavy amounts of debt. Such measures are necessary up to a point, but let us make sure that the replacement for the performance incentive grant, the new improvement agreement grant, delivers not only what the performance incentive grant delivered, but more support for efficient councils, and that it rewards efficient councils rather than inefficient ones.

 

IN WELSH:

Yr wyf yn falch o allu cyfrannu at y ddadl bwysig hon. Heddiw, yr ydym wedi cyrraedd pen y ffordd hir yr ydym wedi teithio ar ei hyd yn y misoedd diweddar, gan gael sawl dadl a thrafodaeth, nid yn unig ar y setliad i lywodraeth leol, ond ar agweddau eraill y cyllid y bydd amryfal wasanaethau’n ei gael yn y flwyddyn hon a blynyddoedd i ddod.

Yn ystod y ddadl honno, yr ydym wedi gwyntyllu sawl rheswm pam y teimlem y dylai llywodraeth leol gael cyfran lawer uwch o’r gyllideb.

Diolchaf i’r Gweinidog am fy nghynnwys mewn cyfarfodydd ac yn y Siambr yn ei feddyliau ynghylch i ble’r oeddem yn mynd. Yr wyf yn falch hefyd ei fod wedi ymgynghori â Chymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru, ond nid wyf yn meddwl ei fod wedi derbyn fy mhryderon na phryderon y Gymdeithas, a ddisgrifiodd gyllideb derfynol y Cynulliad yn ddiweddar fel ‘chwarae o gwmpas ar yr ymylon’.

Croesawn y cyllid ychwanegol a’r ffaith na fydd Conwy, Powys ac awdurdodau tebyg yn cael cynnydd mor isel yn eu grant cynnal refeniw ag yr oeddent yn mynd i’w gael yn wreiddiol. Fodd bynnag, gadewch inni siarad yn blaen; yr oedd yn anhygoel fod Powys a Chonwy’n wynebu cynnydd o 1 y cant. Mae’r codiad i 2 y cant i’r awdurdodau hynny’n gynnydd sylweddol, ond mae’n dal ymhell oddi wrth yr hyn y bydd arnynt ei angen i ddarparu gwasanaethau statudol ac i gyflawni’r cyfrifoldebau a osodwyd arnynt.

Yr ydym yn edrych ar gynnydd o 2.4 y cant yn y grant cynnal y dreth. Clywaf yr hyn a ddywed y Gweinidog sef bod hynny’n 3.3 y cant os cynhwyswch yr holl elfennau eraill. Fodd bynnag, gwyddoch gystal â mi mai’r grant cynnal y dreth yw’r ffigur allweddol, ac nid yw hwnnw wedi cynyddu’n unol â chwyddiant fel y dylasai.

O wrando ar y Gweinidog, caf fy atgoffa o’r hyn a ddywedodd y Gweinidog dros Gyllid a Chyflenwi Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus yn nadl yr wythnos diwethaf, sef bod yr hyn y mae llywodraeth leol yn ei gael yn deg, ac ystyried y swm cyffredinol a ddaw o San Steffan ac a chofio’r hyn y mae awdurdodau dros y ffin yn ei gael. Byddwn yn dadlau gyda’r ddau haeriad yna.

Mae’r ffaith yn aros fod cyllideb y Cynulliad bron wedi dyblu dros y degawd diwethaf, tra mae’r cynnydd i lywodraeth leol yn llai o lawer. Nid wyf yn meddwl ei fod wedi rhoi ateb i hynny. O ran y ddadl bod ein hawdurdodau lleol ni’n cael cyllid llawer gwell nag awdurdodau dros y ffin, gallaf roi rhestr o 10 awdurdod iddo dros y ffin sy’n cael mwy fesul pen o’r boblogaeth. Felly, edrychaf ymlaen at gael ateb gan y Gweinidog ar rai o’r pwyntiau hynny.

Edrychwch ar yr hyn y disgwylir i awdurdodau lleol ei gyflenwi: darpariaethau yn Neddf Gofal Plant 2006 a Deddf Newid yn yr Hinsawdd ac Ynni Cynaliadwy 2006, cynlluniau gwella hawliau tramwy, a mesurau amddiffyn rhag llifogydd. Rhaid i awdurdodau lleol ddelio â’r materion hyn yn y blynyddoedd a ddaw, ond nid yw’r arian yn cael ei ddarparu i’w galluogi i wneud hynny.

Oes, mae mwy o arian ar gael, ac nid wyf am fod yn surbwch llwyr; yr ydym yn hapus ynghylch hynny a’r ffaith nad yw awdurdodau lleol yn mynd i gael y setliad symol a gynigiwyd yn wreiddiol. Gadewch inni fod yn realistig, a gadewch inni wrando ar Gymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru.

Ynglyn â’ch pwynt am dreth gyngor, croesawn, fel y gwna’r trethdalwr mae’n siwr, y ffaith na welwn godiadau anferth, fel yr ofnwyd ar y dechrau. Fodd bynnag, os ydych yn mynd i osod cap ar godiadau treth gyngor rhaid ichi dderbyn ei fod bron fel gêm ddominos farwol, oherwydd mae’r angen i gapio’n ganlyniad i’r setliad a roesoch i awdurdodau lleol yn y lle cyntaf.

Gadewch inni ddweud hynny heb flewyn ar dafod. Mae’n debyg y bûm i’n anghywir pan ddywedais yn ystod yr ychydig ddadleuon diwethaf ar y mater hwn y bydd yn rhaid i awdurdodau lleol yng Nghymru ddewis rhwng faint a roddant i wasanaethau lleol, a beth a wnânt gyda’r dreth gyngor.

Mae’n amlwg i mi’n awr eich bod yn dweud wrth awdurdodau lleol y bydd yn rhaid i’r fwyell ddisgyn yn union ar wasanaethau lleol. Ni allaf weld sut y gellir osgoi hynny os ydych yn dweud wrth awdurdodau mai dim ond hyn a hyn y cânt ei wario, a dim mwy.

Gadewch inni fod yn realistig ynglyn â hyn. Gallwn, gallwn daflu ffigurau o gwmpas, ac mae’n ddiddorol gweld yn yr adroddiad cyllid y swm y mae Llywodraeth y Cynulliad wedi’i roi i gefnogi awdurdodau lleol sy’n cario dyledion mawr.

Mae mesurau o’r fath yn angenrheidiol i ryw raddau, ond gadewch inni wneud yn siwr y bydd y grant cytundeb gwella newydd, sy’n disodli’r grant cymell perfformiad, yn cyflawni nid yn unig yr hyn a gyflawnodd y grant cymell perfformiad, ond hefyd yn rhoi mwy o gefnogaeth i gynghorau effeithlon, ac yn gwobrwyo cynghorau effeithlon yn hytrach na rhai aneffeithlon.