TORFAEN taxpayers face bigger cuts than anticipated after ministers unveiled drastic plans to slash council funding by up to 4.5 per cent in the next three years – significantly more than expected.

Torfaen council could be forced to cut £6 million from its services each year until 2018, it has been said, to offset the funding reduction driven by the rising cost of the NHS.

They unveiled the new austerity programme yesterday after Torfaen councillors cut £11 million in a radical package of cost-saving measures in March.

At the same time, they approved inflation-busting council tax increases of 3.95 per cent.

Council leader Bob Wellington said yesterday the local authority would be faced with “very difficult choices” delivering services and protecting council jobs.

His colleague Cllr Anthony Hunt indicated the Welsh Government funding cuts could put the council “on a downward spiral of austerity” leaving the authority with just £50m to pay for vital services like rubbish collections and libraries.

Cllr Wellington said: “The potential for reductions in Welsh Government funding of up to 4.5 per cent has increased significantly from the 1.5 per cent cash reductions we were told to prepare for. This now presents the council with some very difficult future choices in terms of delivering services and protecting the jobs of the people who deliver these services.”

Cllr Hunt, the executive member for resources, said: “In this downward spiral of austerity, the Welsh Government have been given £2 billion less to share between Welsh public services. If we continue to protect the £96 million for schools and social care, then our scope for savings falls on a much smaller figure of £50 million.”

Cwmbran 50+ Forum delegate Pat Parsons, 67, said yesterday: “I think we are going to be relying on the voluntary sector more.”

Her colleague Ros Chamberlain, 68, added: “I think it will affect services.”

Welsh Government minister Lesley Griffiths unveiled plans to cut funding a in a letter sent to local authorities last month.