THE Llanelli Labour Group have launched a scathing attack on the Plaid Cymru led coalition of Carmarthenshire County Council.
In a press release sent to Llanelli Online the leader of the Llanelli Labour Group Cllr Jeff Edmunds said:
“The Plaid Cymru led coalition in Carmarthenshire County Council cut the School budget for a second year in succession. Despite trying to fool the general public to the contrary in real terms the School budget has been cut by over 2.3m pounds in the next financial year; this brings the total cuts over the last two years to nearly £6m.”
Cllr. Bill Thomas, Shadow Executive Board Member for Education and Children Services said:
“These cuts are having a detrimental effect on the education of many children in Carmarthenshire and this is totally unacceptable. In their budget statement the Plaid Cymru/Independent coalition write that these cuts will lead to schools having to review their spending levels and to consider staffing levels and class sizes. These cuts will result in staff redundancies in our schools. They go on to say that these cuts could impact on the high standards achieved by Carmarthenshire’s learners and the support provided for vulnerable/disabled pupils.
“Our children are the future and must be given every opportunity to achieve their full potential but this sentiment appears to be lacking by the Plaid Cymru/Independent coalition as their budget statement demonstrates.”
Speaking about the consequences of the cuts Cllr. Jeff Edmunds said:
“I have witnessed the devastating impact that the first round of cuts made by the Plaid Cymru led coalition have had on the education of our children. Class sizes have increased in many cases to well over 30 pupils due in part to staff having to be made redundant. Additional support for the most vulnerable children have been slashed and some schools being downgraded.
”These negative issues are totally unacceptable and cuts should never have been implemented and I spoke against them warning of such consequences over a year ago. Sadly those cuts were carried through then and its subsequent impact is clear. We were aware that the Plaid Cymru led coalition intended to make further cuts to the Education budget but before councillors take such a decision I believed we needed to know the impact that would have on our children.”
Cllr Edmunds claims that at the September council meeting last year he put forward a motion, which when followed would inform councillors what the potential outcome for schools and children would be if further cuts were made to Education. He claims that the motion (below) was amended (in italics) by Cllr. Glynog Davies the Executive Board Member for Education, seconded and duly voted on unanimously.
Before any more financial cuts are considered within the education budget a full and proper evaluation of the impact and potential outcomes to such cuts are undertaken. Proper consultation to take place with all schools in Carmarthenshire and the result of this evaluation and consultation presented to full Council prior to the 2018/19 council budget meeting. The resulting information also to be presented as evidence to the Welsh Government, asking for an assurance that the revenue support grant for 2018/19 will include sufficient funding of education, as it is no longer ring fenced by them. This will result in every member being fully aware of the facts and the importance of their vote in such a crucially important matter.
Cllr Edmunds claims that the Chief Executive confirmed that the amendment did not negate the Motion and was therefore acceptable.
The Labour Group claim that despite being passed by full council the motion was not adhered to when it came to the council budget meeting in February. Cllr. Edmunds claims that he raised the matter but got no response from either the administration or officers. He said: “Maybe the public perception will be, is the administration above democracy?”
Cllr. Edmunds said that he hoped the response would not be a play on words. He said: “In real terms there is a reduction or cut to the Education budget of over £2.3m in the next financial year as there is inflation and wage increases etc. that has to be factored in.
“How can councillors vote on something when they don’t know the outcome or impact their decision will have? Is that openness and transparency especially such a crucial vote? The children in Carmarthenshire deserve the best foundation.
“The detailed impact of the cuts for schools will not be known for a few months, because the schools haven’t received their detailed budgets from the County Council yet. The pressure put on the Plaid Cymru led coalition by the Labour group has brought about a U turn on their decision to raise the cost of school meals.
“Last year’s increase in School meal charges has led to fewer children taking school meals. Labour Councillors called on the Plaid led Executive Board to re-think and stop this year’s increase, thankfully they listened.”
Plaid Cymru have responded to the claims by the Llanelli Labour Group and with the following:
Labour’s attack is the height of hypocrisy. The education budget was ring-fenced until two years ago, when that protection was removed by the Labour Government in Cardiff. This, coupled with the on-going UK government’s savage austerity cuts, lamely passed on by the Labour government, makes education more vulnerable to the huge financial pressures on council spending. Despite this, the Plaid-led CCC is managing to shield our schools from the worse effects of austerity, including freezing the price of school meals.
“Labour’s claims are just not true,” said Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board member for Education. “It had nothing to do with them. It was my personal aspiration to freeze prices and I asked officers some time ago to find the money, a point I made in public some weeks ago. Funding was found from within the council’s budget and rubber-stamped by the Executive Board meeting on Monday, 26th March.”
A campaign has also been launched by the council to encourage parents to ensure that their children have healthy and nutritious food by eating school meals. “In particular, we are urging parents whose children are eligible for free meals to take advantage of this, said Cllr Davies. “The fact that a third of Welsh children live in poverty is a damning indictment of the Welsh Labour Government. This makes increased take-up of free school meals even more important.”
Plaid’s Cllr Darren Price ridiculed Labour’s attack on the annual budget in general. “They had months to consider the budget options, but failed to put forward one amendment in full Council, let alone an alternative budget. Yet they’re ready to grandstand for the webcast in chamber, make personal attacks on other members, and make totally misleading statements in the press.”