The Corporate Services Director for RCT Council has again accused the Welsh Assembly Government of using "smoke and mirrors" tactics in an effort to hide the levels of cuts they are imposing on Local Government.
In an extraordinary statement which appeared in a budget report to the full Council for their meeting on 23rd February Mr Merritt states that
'In England the Government has set aside monies to support Councils there who may wish to set very low levels of Council Tax. In Wales the WAG say that they have included in the provisional settlement an amount of £32M that could allow Councils to freeze Council Tax. This is no more than an attempt by WAG to confuse the matter ("smoke and mirrors") as it is evident that no additional resource is available.'
Welsh Liberal Democrat councillor Mike Powell said he was surprised to see such a blatant attack appearing in a public document, although previous budget statements have on several occasions made similar points.
"The Labour administration in RCT has been desperately trying to lay all the blame for the cuts and their current decisions over employees' terms and conditions at the door of the Westminster Government. This despite the fact that Local Government is a devolved issue and the money comes from their own colleagues in the Welsh Government at Cardiff Bay.
This statement, which coming from a senior Officer must be correct, suggests that the cuts made by the Labour - Plaid coalition in the Bay have been deeper than they would have people believe. It is not the first time this issue has been raised in the Chamber via reports from the finance officers"
Back in 2008 there was reference to the fact that the Assembly Government were not passing on Council's fair share.
'Whilst it is appreciated that the Welsh Assembly Government's allocated resources from Central Government have reduced, Local Governments "equitable" share has not been passed on, which will make matters for all Councils in Wales even more of a challenge.'
The report to Council in March 2010 stated that
'there is a continuous fall in funding to this Council and local Government in general….This will have a major impact on the amount of funding available to WAG and could reduce resource levels by hundreds of millions of pounds. It is also evident as is shown in recent years' settlements that Local Government IS NOT SEEN AS A PRIORITY BY WAG'
Councillor Powell added
"It is a further mark of the hypocrisy being displayed by Labour in this area that they are so determined to try and blame everyone but themselves for the state this Council finds itself in.
Labour have been in control here for the last seven years, in Cardiff Bay for twelve years, and were at Westminster for thirteen years. Yet they expect people to believe they are blameless?"