COUNCIL leaders across Gwent have condemned remarks made by a Welsh Government minister over proposed local government cuts.

Leader of the Labour-led Caerphilly council, Dave Poole, described comments from local government secretary Alun Davies likening council to Oliver Twist as ‘flippant and inappropriate’.

The Blaenau Gwent AM told BBC Radio Cymru on Wednesday that ‘complaining’ councillors had behaved like the titular Charles Dickens character after plans to impose real-term cuts to council budgets were announced this month.

But Cllr Poole said the council would ‘make no apology’ for calling for a better financial settlement amidst concerns the proposed funding arrangements will ‘majorly’ impact frontline services.

“It’s unbelievable that the cabinet member for local government has made such flippant and inappropriate remarks at a time when Caerphilly and other councils are facing extremely difficult decisions about cuts,” said Cllr Poole.

“If these are the types of comments that the cabinet secretary makes in public, I dread to think what his private views are about local government.

“We deliver frontline services in the heart of our communities and we are also responsible for safeguarding some of the most vulnerable people in society, so we make no apology for arguing for a better financial settlement to protect our services.”

Under the Welsh Government’s draft budget proposals for next year, Gwent councils would see collective cuts of up to £1.3 million.

READ MORE: Gwent councils face cuts of up to £1.3m

Monmouthshire council leader Peter Fox described Mr Davies’ stance as ‘derogatory’ and ‘disrespectful’.

“In my 11 years as a council leader I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen such an attitude toward locally elected councillors, people who have a mandate to speak on behalf of their communities,” said Cllr Fox.

“Disrespecting our calls as a sector for a fair settlement and then to belittle council leaders demonstrates this cabinet secretary’s flawed understanding of the pressures that local government is facing.”

Newport leader Debbie Wilcox, who leads the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), outlined the plight of local councils to members of the Welsh Assembly’s equality, local government and communities committee yesterday.

Cllr Wilcox was joined by Torfaen council leader Anthony Hunt, who acts as finance spokesman for the WLGA. Neither could be reached for individual comment.

Blaenau Gwent council refused to comment but a spokesman said they shared the views of Swansea council leader and deputy WLGA leader, Rob Stewart,

He said on Wednesday: “The remarks from the cabinet secretary are deeply unfortunate and inappropriate particularly bearing in mind that he is supposed to be the ‘voice’ of local government around the Welsh Government cabinet table. He is belittling those who are arguing for proper levels of funding to support those treasured services such as education, social care, housing and transport for the most vulnerable communities across Wales.”