Shocking picture of austerity cuts to services in Wales revealed by UNISON

The true scale of almost a decade of savage austerity cuts to local communities in the Wales is laid bare in a study published by UNISON today, showing the impact of huge reductions in council funding.

A series of freedom of information (FOI) requests to local authorities in Wales examined the changes in local services between 2010 and 2019 for youth centres and libraries.

UNISON Cymru Wales says nine years of Westminster-driven severe spending cuts have stripped Welsh councils of £1.6billion, cost 28,100 local authority jobs and brought services to crisis point.

The FOI findings, using data supplied by 20 out of 22 local authorities in Wales, show the human cost of the cutbacks:

  • A total of 193 youth centres have closed since 2010
  • A third (32 per cent) of libraries in Wales have either closed, been privatised or are now run by volunteers. This is a decrease of 87 council-run libraries (2010 libraries: 276, 2019:189)

Commenting on the study, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The scale of the cuts is both breathtaking and disturbing.

“Each cut has a major impact on a community, whether it’s a pensioner feeling isolated in their home because they can’t get a bus or people being unable to borrow books or use the internet in local libraries. The widespread axeing of youth centres has left many young people with nowhere to turn at crucial points in their lives.

“Squeezed budgets have forced councils to make impossible decisions. No local authority wants to cut the services it offers but with much less funding coming from Westminster, they’ve often had little choice. It’s vulnerable people and those least able to fend for themselves who suffer most.

“This is the shocking legacy of nine years of Tory spending cuts. People should think about the services lost to their communities when they cast their vote on polling day.”

Notes to editors

  • UNISON’s data was gathered from local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales with 330 out of 398 supplying figures (83%).
    UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.
  • According to the ONS Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey 28,100 council jobs were lost between Q1 2010 and Q1 2018
  • In 2010/11 gross revenue (day-to-day) spending by local councils in Wales was £7.64bn. By 2017/18 that figure had increased to just over £8bn but if it had kept pace with inflation it would have been £9.02bn using Consumer Price Index (CPI) and £9.59bn using Retail Price Index (RPI)
  • A breakdown by local authority is available on request


Alastair Gittins, UNISON press officer on 07816 538397