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Council leader hits out at ‘unfair’ funding formula

12 Jan 2024 4 minute read
Conwy Council building in Colwyn Bay. Inset: Charlie McCoubrey

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

A council leader has slammed the funding formula used to calculate how much money the authority is awarded by the Welsh Government annually.

In December both Conwy and Gwynedd came bottom of the local government settlement table of 22 Welsh authorities with just a 2% budget rise.

Conwy’s sum amounts to less than an extra £4m extra in 2024/25, despite teacher and council staff pay increases of £12m, inflation, and rising costs.

Whilst Gwynedd was bottom with Conwy with just a 2% rise, Denbighshire at 3.7% received the highest percentage increase in North Wales whilst Newport in Gwent, south Wales, had the highest settlement in the country, receiving a 4.7% hike.

Flintshire will receive the third lowest rise in Wales at 2.2%, Anglesey an additional 2.5%, and Wrexham 3.2%.

South Wales councils such as Cardiff and Swansea received increases of 4.1% and 3.8% respectively. The average increase across Wales is 3.1%.

But Conwy has one of the most elderly populations in the UK and high social care costs and is facing a funding gap of around £25m next year.


Speaking at a cabinet meeting at Bodlondeb on Tuesday, leader Cllr Charlie McCoubrey claimed the formula used to calculate how much each council gets is outdated and unfair.

Cllr McCoubrey said the local government settlement paid for 72% of Conwy’s funding with council tax making up the other 28%, meaning Conwy was getting less than £4m extra for the forthcoming year.

“To put that in perspective, the pay award for teachers and staff in Conwy will cost £4.4m, and the pay award for council employees equates to £7.6m,” he said.

“The funding formula that is used has over 70 different elements to it, and the per capita funding is meant to balance out a range of factors, including deprivation, sparsity, and relative ability to raise council tax.

“In the last financial year, our nearest neighbours Denbighshire received an additional £256 per head. Gwynedd received £155 (extra) per head, a funding difference of 15% and 10% respectively.

“If Conwy received the same amount per capita funding as Denbighshire after an adjustment for our tax base, it would be an additional £20m every single year. I think this is fundamentally unfair on a couple of grounds.”

‘Fit for purpose’

He added, “Firstly, 30% of the data used is long out of date. Much of this data goes back to 2001. Some data goes back as far as 1991. Clearly, any data used should be as up to date as possible. I would question whether the funding formula is fit for purpose for the current challenges we face, especially in dealing with the soaring costs of an aging population.

“As an example of that, we will see £11.99 for every resident aged between 60 and 85. This jumps to £1,900 for residents over 85, but in Conwy around 47% of residents we provide either domiciliary care or residential care are under 85, and of course that is particularly significant in Conwy with (the number of) over 65s about a third higher than the Welsh average. I know Denbighshire really well. From a council perspective we’re both part of the same public service board.

“On a personal level, before moving to Abergele in 2000, I lived in Dyserth and Rhuddlan for 10 years. I worked as an NHS dentist in the West End of Rhyl for 23 years and completely recognise that there are significant areas of deprivation there.

“But we also have significant areas of deprivation within Conwy. In terms of our geography, topography, and population size, we are very similar, and put simply, I can’t see how it costs 15% more per head to deliver council services in Denbighshire than it does in Conwy, so I’ll continue to make the case for change and for Senedd Members to assist me with this.”

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