DENBIGHSHIRE'S senior councillors were slammed by backbenchers for defending 3% school budget cuts – with the former leader branding the current cabinet ‘weak’.

At a council meeting this week, a debate about the budget and school cuts was revisited, and several councillors accused the cabinet of ‘weakness’ and pointing the finger at Westminster.

Denbighshire has received a 3.7% local government settlement rise, the highest in North Wales, but council leaders again blamed UK Government for a lack of investment.

The council’s funds are allocated by Welsh Government through the annual local government settlement, but the Welsh Government is funded in turn by Westminster.

But Denbighshire’s Labour leader claimed that whilst the Labour-led Welsh Government has received the highest amount from the Tory-UK Government since devolution began, inflation means it is a cut in real terms.

But this defence attracted criticism from independent and Tory backbenchers who feared schools – responsible for their own budgets once money was allocated – would likely cut non-statutory services, affecting the most vulnerable children with additional emotional, educational, and safeguarding needs.

The row follows schools being told to make 3% savings, amounting to £2.7m, and headteachers writing to parents to encourage them to contact their local MP or MS.

Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts demanded to know what the cabinet intended to do to protect Denbighshire’s most vulnerable children.

“What are you going to do about it?” he demanded, referring to the cuts.


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Cabinet member for education Cllr Gill German responded: “Schools manage their own budgets. The extra services they have in place beyond statutory services, which I’ve spoken about at length involve things like well-being support that are extras.

“It is those things that they are talking about (to be cut). We have protected services for the most vulnerable. We have kept to the 3% (cuts) we said we would do all the way through with school budget forum, and indeed, other council services have taken a hit in order to prioritise education and adult and children’s care.”

She added: “I’ll repeat what Jason (leader Cllr McLellan) said: the idea that heads are happy with it is not even worthy of comment, and the idea that I am happy with it is just ludicrous.”

But Conservative councillor Brian Jones said: “I’m fed up of turning up in this chamber in front of cabinet and listening to the same old record about all our problems are to do with the UK Government.

“Welsh Government have had £18 billion awarded to them from the UK Government. It is the biggest settlement in devolution history, but still we have to sit here and listen to ‘14 years of austerity’. Look at the Investment that’s coming into Wales. Look at where the Welsh Government are wasting money.”

Former leader Cllr Hugh Evans accused the cabinet of showing weakness.

“We are responsible for services in our authority,” he said.

“I really don’t care what excuses there are for not delivering good services. I was told when I first became leader not to blame other people or Welsh Government for the settlement we had and that it was a sign of weakness.”

He added: “When you blame others when you are in a position of authority, it is a sign of weakness.”

He then asked council leaders not to let education slip back into previous poorer standards.

But leader Cllr Jason McLellan said Denbighshire was in the worst position in its history.

“I do take issue with the notion that we are sitting back and just blaming people,” he said.

“Let me go to Brian (Cllr Jones) and explain the concept of inflation. The so-called increase is in fact a £1.2 billion cut over a number of years, and that’s the reality.”

He added: “This is the most unprecedented time in local government for budget pressures. I’m facing a far worse settlement that Denbighshire with other councils has faced in our lifetime. That’s the reality of the situation. The fact is Wales is billions of pounds worse off than it was 14 years ago. And that is an absolute fact.”

The budget, including the school cuts, was set on January 30, and councillors rubber-stamped the 9.34% council tax rise increase this week.