03/03/2013 The Wales Report


Huw Edwards examines the impact of council budget cuts on local services, and explores the role of trade unions in the modern Welsh workplace.

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Tonight on The Wales Report: Council services in crisis. Is the


problem too little money and do councillors have the right


priorities? A turbulent week for the Lib Dems as the party in Wales


faces new challenges ahead. Nearly 30 years after the miners'


strike, we look at the drastic changes to trade unions in Wales.


Good evening. It is good to be back. Welcome to our weekly take on the


issues that affect lives in all parts of Wales and the people


making the decisions. The past week has brought renewed protests


against planned cuts in council services and facilities. Local


authorities in Wales are trying to balance the books. The Wales Report


has found that the funding shortfall faced by Welsh councils


is higher than ever and the jaws of what to cut and what to save is


more difficult than ever. -- the choice. Helen Callaghan has been


witnessing the battle involving Wales's biggest local authority.


Right across Wales, in council chambers, in county and City Halls


like this one, a drama is being played out about your vital


services. Councillors are in deep discussion about which services to


cut, which to keep, and whether to put up council tax. We should not


have to give up the services and benefits that we rely on. It is


decision day for Cardiff Council's budget and it is not just the


councillors who have turned up for the meeting. While the tough


decisions are being made inside, outside the council taxpayers


themselves are making the politicians are aware as vocally as


they possibly can exactly which services they want to keep open and


why. We are trying to keep our riding school open. It has helped


me a lot to regain my strength. will not affect you at the end of


the day. It will affect us. understand that. A no, you don't,


or you would not be cutting it. want a pool on the side that has


been there since 1920. We have to be listened to. Whether or not they


pay any attention is up to them. The man at the centre of the storm


in Cardiff is head of finance, Councillor Russell good way.


Feelings are running high. Everybody has their own particular


cause to champion. How difficult is it when you are in there to make


these decisions? It is hugely difficult. You end up pleasing


nobody. We have a responsibility to set a balanced budget and if we


fail to do that today, then 18,000 people in this city will not be


happy on 15th April. People are very upset and there's not much I


can do. It is going to be a long day for Cardiff council. And for


the other authorities across Wales going through the same pain. In


total, our councils will receive some �4.4 billion from the Welsh


Government in the coming financial year. Although the money pot is


shrinking in real terms, councils still have to pay for everything


from schools to refuse collection, social services, public toilets and


leisure facilities. Councils can swell the coffers by putting up


council tax and this year those decisions are more politically


explosive than ever. In England, the Westminster Government are


rewarding councils for freezing council tax. That policy has


resulted in more money, at some �50 million coming to the Welsh


Government. But the Welsh Government is not offering similar


incentives for Welsh councils, which David Cameron has criticised.


This Government has made available money for council tax freeze, with


the consequence that the money is available in Wales for the council


tax freeze and people in Wales know who to blame if they council tax is


not frozen. But the Welsh Government say that the priority


here is to put the money towards creating jobs and boosting the


economy. They insisted is up to individual councils to decide what


to do about council tax. Council tax is expected to go up on average


by 3% except Cardiff and Monmouthshire. One way or another,


councils have to balance the books. Looking at local authority figures,


we have been able to calculate that across Wales there is an estimated


shortfall of �128 million. There is a perfect storm around local


Government finance at present. Clearly it will be very, very


difficult for local councils to keep council tax increases low


while at the same time providing services at the level that people


expect. But in Cardiff, it is getting dark. Councillors are still


debating how to save some �22 million. Well, two hours in and


this is no ordinary full council meeting. The campaigners are all in


the public gallery and they are making their presence felt.


Sometimes they are applauding when petitions are read out but other


times they are Hacker link as the debate goes on into the night. --


heckling. It is good news for the swimming pool, which will stay open


for now. It has been a strong campaign and it reflects how people


are feeling about this. It will be great news for everybody, really.


It is the end of a long and pretty extraordinary day and night. Most


of the protesters have now gone home. Some were disappointed,


others have reason to be optimistic. After all the debate inside the


council chamber, the tough and contentious decisions have now been


made. Cardiff has signed off its budget, just as all of our councils


will have to do over the next few weeks. This year, cross wireless


services and jobs are under threat but in future many are asking


whether it should be the councils facing the final cut. -- across


Wales. With me is a councillor for manager, Peter Fox. You are one of


two councils telling people they do not need to pay more council tax in


this coming year. Why have you said that? We have made a commitment


that we would keep council tax to the minimum over the last two years,


and we are honouring that. We believe it is so difficult for


everybody in the community at the moment and it is important to play


our part in helping people through a difficult time. We cannot keep


his decision up for much longer but it was important for us. What


things will people be losing in terms of services? Or suffering, in


your opinion? You have seen the audit, so where will people see a


different? People might struggle to believe that they will not see a


great deal of difference in service provision. We are having to put


charging in for certain things that may not have been charged for


before. A examples? Charging for green waste collection, for


instance. We currently pick that up for free each week. We are thinking


of putting a small charge per bag of green waste, if you like, to


help maintain that service for the future. Other examples? We are


having to charge for pest control, which raises about �45,000 towards


a �4.5 million deficit this year. Do you think those are small items?


They seem to be. Potential car-park charge increases, which we have


withdrawn from. Those are the things that have stimulated the


most debate and controversy in the community. When you look at the


quality of services, what do you say to someone who looks at your


county and says, actually, the education service is not too hot at


the moment, is that an area where you are trying to save money with


children losing out? I can see that being raised at the moment, but I


can reassure everybody that we have invested heavily in education as a


key priority for Monmouthshire. We have some issues of improvement. We


have not got the answer for everything and we know that, but we


recognise there are ways to do things differently. All authorities


will have to do things differently in difficult times. We saw swimming


pools in Cardiff them, a riding school for disabled people, and


those things are so politically sensitive. Are you saying that in


the future in York County you are going to have to look at items of


that kind of value and the sensitivity? -- in your county?


are going to have to look at all of those services and perhaps persuade


people to deliver them for us. We also have financial statutory


services. You recognise that the elderly population is growing, your


social care bill is getting bigger, so if you are getting less money


and you still have to invest in priority areas, what you have got


left have to go much further. you plunder your reserves. Are you


doing that? No. We are using reserves in a prudent weight, to


use money to help us invest in different ways of doing things.


What are we talking about? �775,000 of reserves to invest in ideas to


try and close the gap. It is a lot of money. It is. The reality is


that if we do not invest in the future, these things will not magic


their way forward. It would be very easy for us to use reserves and


just block gaps, but council tax up, but if we want to provide


sustainable services and the long term, we need to rebuild local


Government, if you like, redefine it and do things in a different way.


That is the agenda we are on. of the spending cuts that the


Westminster Government has put into the system have not been felt yet.


They have not been delivered yet. If we look ahead, not just next


year, maybe four years down the line, how concerned are you about


the sustainability of services? am very concerned. The areas that


may not have the statutory element will take a bigger hit. Such as?


Well, those sorts of things that people value like leisure,


libraries, culture. Those things that add value to people's lives,


sadly if there is less money, they have to be delivered in a different


way. I am not planning cuts to those things in Monmouthshire, but


we have to look closely at how we can do things and preserve the bid


offer. But things will have to change, and that is a fat. -- a


fact. Becky. We could hear sighs of relief from


Lib Dem headquarters this week as the by-election in Eastleigh was


won by Nick Clegg's party. overcame the odds and won a


stunning victory. That victory was achieved, despite one of the most


turbulent weeks in the party's history. Nick Clegg himself was


under fire for the handling of the controversy surrounding Lord


Rennard, the former chief executive of the party, who has been accused


of inappropriate sexual conduct, which he has denied. The question


of what Nick Clegg may or may not have known is under debate, and the


party faces its own challenges in terms of cuts and welfare benefits


being imposed by the coalition in Westminster, with Lib Dem support


of course. How does that affect the party's standing with Welsh voters?


Joining is Kirsty Williams. Thank you for coming in. You have broken


all the rules of by-elections, haven't you? A party with a


turbulent run-up to a by-election We were able to demonstrate that


our candidate was the best person. I could not say anything better. It


was a stunning victory against all the odds. The first time a party in


Government have been able to hold on to a marginal seat in a by-


election for 30 years. I am not taking anything away. UKIP did well


to come second. They clearly help due by taking walks away from the


Conservatives. The performance of UKIP is one of all parties will


have to reflect on. We have to be careful about making assumptions of


what will happen at a General Election. Undoubtedly the


Conservatives do have a problem with UKIP. All parties need to


respond to some of the messages, people coming out of the Poles were


explaining why they voted macro that way. They wanted to spend a


message to all the main parties. Welfare changes, the bedroom tax, I


am just wondering if I was a Welsh Water asking what you wanted to do


about these things, would you say you were in favour of bedroom tax


on against it? The changes the Westminster Government are bringing


in is exactly the same system that the red Jubilee -- already works in


the private sector. We are changing its salt that deep social public


sector is the same. Undoubtedly there are some difficult cases. I


acknowledge that, I see it in my own postbag. That is why the


Government have increased the amount of money going to local


councils so they can respond to local needs. We need to make sure


the additional money that is coming to Welsh councils to help


individuals who for whatever reason cannot move or need to stay in the


properties they stay in, they are given assistance. We need to review


that to make sure that money is the right amount of money. If you


listen to some of the debates they will say it is not just a case of a


few people been adversely affected, it is more than that. What is the


kind of impression you are going to create if you go around campaigning


seeing broadly you think it is OK? We need to make sure the mitigating


money that has been sent to local authorities is the right amount. We


will have a timely tribute to reflect on that. We need to be


clear what the Westminster Government is doing for the people


of Wales. Tens of thousands of people in Wales will be paying no


income tax whatsoever from this April. We are helping hard-pressed,


hard working families in the lowest paid jobs, taking them out of


income tax altogether. There is a balance to be struck. We need to


make sure we create a strong economy and build a fairer society.


That is what we are using our influence to do at Westminster.


will see the measures coming up in the Budget in a couple of weeks.


You try in Wales to set out your own style as a party who have its


own specific discrete identity of its own. At Westminster there are


hard-hitting reforms, how do you in Wales got out campaigning seeing


actually we're still part of that routine. Away embracing those


reforms? How do you handle it? I do is be true to the principles


of Welsh Liberal Democrats. If there are things in London being


done that I do not agree with I am not scared to stand up and say I


think they are doing it wrong. some of the most controversial


things we have discussed today you said you are perfectly happy with


them. We have seen Tory members of the Government wanting to reduce


regional p, something I have felt very strongly about the opposing.


Because the Liberal Democrats are part of a coalition Government we


have been able to stop that. I am not afraid to stand up and so say


when my colleagues are wrong. I am not afraid to use the influence I


have to try to change policy. about the new universal benefit?


think trying to create a system that does not trap people in


poverty but allows them the chance to move out of the system into the


world of work is the right thing to do. For too long we have had


generations of people trapped on benefits. We need to create a


strong economy so there are jobs for these people to go to. That is


what we need to do and what I and my colleagues at Westminster are


committed to doing. Thank you for coming in. A quick question, how


many of you are members of a trade union? Some 80% of Welsh workers


were union members in the heyday of heavy industry. Something


interesting happened last year Bucking the UK Wight trend, union


membership in Will increased, more specifically it increased among


women. What is trade-union activity in the modern Welsh economy? It is


30 years since the miners' strike. Our reporter has more. Mrs Thatcher


was incredibly lucky with her enemies. Arthur Scargill was an


incompetent General. We are not going to intervene in the coal


dispute. I for Tom Bahah for the National Union, I call on every


single working miner to stop work doing this dispute. This


documentary I made for BBC Wales in 2004 was to mark the 20th


anniversary of the year-long miners' strike which transformed


the industrial and political landscape of Britain. The


consequences of what I then described as as civil war continued


to reverberate in the wider trade union movement today, 30 years


after that titanic struggle. The question is, did the trade union


movement in Wales decline in parallel with the miners' union and


become something of a museum piece itself? In an attempt to answer


that question we brought together two men from opposite ends of the


political spectrum to reflect on what has been and assess the place


of trade unionism in today's wheels. Rod Richards, a former right-wing


MP supported Margaret Thatcher, a controversial figure who fell out


with his own party, a political rottweiler. Kim Howells, once the


darling of the left, a former Labour MP and Government minister,


he was the research officer with the miners' union in Wales at the


time of the strike. He is not averse to speaking his mind. It was


not long before Auld rivalries surfaced once again. It was a one-


party State. I am usually the one who gets told off! Typical argy-


bargy from two veterans but then something surprising happened when


the conversation turned to considering the current place of


Unionism. You could hardly put a cigarette paper between them as


consensus broke out in the valleys. The car industry has been


transformed because there is a degree of co-operation that looks


first at innovating, creating better products. It is predicated


on corporation. The at his right. Without trade unions I fear there


will be a mentality that assumes it is all right to exploit. I believe


that trade unions are necessary. I would agree that there are some


employers who are very bad. Unless you have the Trades Union they can


face up to these people in terms of giving the right advice and going


to court, then people would be disadvantaged. I would not want to


see a society like that. However, when you have people like Bob Crow


who want to renationalise the railways, I certainly would not


want to see that. It is enough to make your head reel, trying to


reconcile the thought that two former political enemies have not -


- have suddenly found common political ground and become


political comrades. So, what is the future for the trades union


movement in Wales? The headquarters of the TUC is still here in Cardiff


but these days the represent a very different face to the world. Given


the devastating effects of the miners' strike it is perhaps


surprising to learn that the membership of unions in Wales is


actually on the up compared to other places in the UK. The


increase in membership is due in part to the prominence of the


public sector in Wales, it is also attributable to a residual


collective loyalty to our industrial past. Two policy


officers at the Wales d u c bear witness to our past influencing our


future. They are both from families with mining backgrounds and


committed to their roles in promoting trade unionism in Wales.


I think people are looking for I think people are looking for


protection against another UK Government that is deciding to turn


the screw on public sector workers. And low-paid private sector workers.


Is that how you see it? Absolutely. Union membership among female


employees in the Welsh workforce is higher than that for meals for the


10th successive year. In a perverse way the miners' strike has in part


been responsible for the empowerment of the Welsh man. --


for males. My mother is an incredible Welsh women. She is a


fantastic mother as well as a fantastic colleague and work made.


She does a fantastic role in the community. It is empowering to see.


The pets have gone. The once powerful miners' union is no more


and the role of the trades union movement has changed in a way that


even old political adversities can find common ground to agree on. For


the future that is, as to the past, that is another story. Some things


just do not change. My greatest frustration was the idea that


trades unionists should see themselves as having this close


symbiotic relationship with Government ministers. The debate


continues. That was David Williams and joining me in the studio is the


head of the PC s Union in Wales. There is a big debate about the


State of the unions in Wales, do you think it is healthy or not?


have 66% in the public sector but over 20% in the private sector


which is massively different thing comparison to other parts of the


country. Why do you think people in Wales are more keen to be members,


or feel they should be members of? I think we have a strong tradition


of trades unions in Wales and in the community. That is something


that has continued since we had big industry here. Are you confident of


the increasing number in Wales, that it is going to carry on or is


it just a blip, some kind of odd circumstances that have bucked the


trend? I would say that for the last five years we have done a bit


of research into this area. Every single time that the union I work


for and the membership I represent, actually increases every time there


is the industrial action. Membership does not decrease.


Bartok that is that at this moment in time people are feeling the bite.


People have faced pay freezes for a number of years while basic things


like gas and electricity are going up. Also the wider thing in terms


of their families not having access to things and unions. Given who you


are, your profile, you are a young woman, your background, what would


you say to young women in your position where union membership is


concerned? For many I imagine it is not a concept they would even have


considered. The numbers speak for themselves. There are a good


proportion of women in Wales we are in and out union. In the public


sector it tends to be higher among women than men. Our membership


among young people has increased an hour activity in the workplace has


done so. It is important for unions to be reflective of their


membership. It is important we do not just go down the traditional


white male sort of line, that we are genuinely reflective of our


overall membership as well which is extremely diverse. Thank you for


As Welsh councils finalise their budgets for the coming year, Huw Edwards asks what impact they will have on local services. And what role do trade unions play in today's Welsh workplace?

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