Wales politics

Cash-strapped council leader attacks NHS spending

Council and health services Image copyright BBC/Getty Iamges

The NHS in Wales cannot overspend while councils face continual cuts, the leader of one authority has warned.

Wrexham council's Mark Pritchard said there needed to be an "adult conversation" about the way councils and the NHS were funded.

He also said that cuts in local services would lead to more pressures on the health service across Wales.

Councils will learn on Tuesday how much cash they are to get next year from the Welsh Government.

But the leader of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has already predicted that local authorities in Wales will have to raise council tax by 5% across the board.

Debbie Wilcox has also called for NHS reforms to cut costs.

It followed a review by the Wales Governance Centre and Wales Public Services 2025 that said about 56p in every pound spent by the Welsh Government on public services could go to the NHS within four years.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, the Wrexham leader said he fully supported the health service in Wales - but the issue of overspending had to be addressed.

"The health service for me has to be managed better financially," said Mr Pritchard, an independent councillor.

"Because, if you're just taking off one service and giving its money to the other, it has an impact.

"Not only that, we have to work in partnership with the health service, we really do, because we have a lot to offer.

"I just think sometimes they don't listen, they work in isolation, and that's not good for anybody."

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Media captionMark Pritchard: 'There is no more money left'

Mr Pritchard said his own council must now talk about which services it will have to cut.

"If we stop gritting the roads, you would have more slips and falls," he argued.

"We spend a lot of money on DFGs - disability facility grants - keeping our constituent residents living independently within their own home longer.

"If we didn't do that, that would have an impact on their health.

"If they continually take money off local services it will have an impact on the national health."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The NHS in Wales will get additional funding over the next two years

Extra funding for the NHS was announced last week as part of the £15.3bn draft budget.

Over the next two years it will receive £450m more - £230m in 2018-19 and £220m in 2019-20.

Welsh Government officials said next year's increase was about 1%, taking inflation into account.

Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford has described it as not a "generous settlement".

However, Welsh councils said they have faced cuts of £900m on frontline services in local government.

"The elephant in the room here is austerity, and austerity can't just keep going on," said WLGA finance spokesman, Torfaen leader Anthony Hunt.

"It sets public services against public services."

He told Sunday Supplement that unless there was more investment in local services the result would be "catastrophic for communities".

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