Wales politics

People expect too much of councils, outgoing leader says

Dyfed Edwards
Image caption Dyfed Edwards, Gwynedd's longest-serving leader, is stepping down from the council in May

Public expectations of local authorities are too high given the financial pressure they are under, an outgoing council leader has warned.

Gwynedd leader Dyfed Edwards told BBC Wales communities should consider what they can do themselves to be "part of the answer not part of the problem".

Since 2010 Welsh ministers' funding for councils has dropped by 17%, according to the public spending watchdog.

Councils have tough financial decisions ahead after local elections on 4 May.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said more discussions will have to take place on how communities can help provide services in the future.

Appointed in 2008, Plaid Cymru councillor Mr Edwards is not seeking re-election.

Speaking on the O'r Senedd programme, broadcast on Tuesday night, he said: "At this stage we need a new relationship with our communities because we're facing situations where money's tight and there's more pressure on public services.

"We need to see communities as part of the solution for that to happen.

"Some communities are ripe to do that, some are eager to do that but not everyone."

Mr Edwards said he had seen a "shift in public opinion" where "more people are crying out for public services to solve their problems where in reality we've got less potential to do that now".

"We need to promote the discussion locally to see what communities themselves can contribute to be part of the problem rather than part of the problem," he added.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Councils are expected to have to trim their budgets for many years to come

Chris Llewelyn, from the WLGA, said councils accepted it was "inevitable" that cuts to public services would continue while pressure on public services increased

"Very often the axe falls on services which aren't statutory: things like culture, leisure, theatre and so on," he said.

"Local authorities are working with their communities to look at different models for providing services.

"In some areas there are community libraries, and more and more trusts are being set up to provide services."

Mr Llewelyn said that approach "looks quite successful" so far, and "it's fair to say we'll have to have more of this type of discussion in the future".

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