Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Talking cuts

‘Everybody is talking at me’ as Harry Nilsson’s lyrics go. But unlike him I do hear the word they’re saying – cuts.

It’s difficult to get away from talk about them. The TUC in their conference were predicting cuts with consequences that were more dangerous than have been seen since the 1930s.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, the leader of Plaid Cymru in his conference speech went as far as to say that even the health budget in Wales would not escape unscathed. But now his party’s economics guru has entered the debate by saying that the Government in Cardiff Bay’s assumptions on the size of the cuts are far too high. Who is right and who is wrong will be revealed in the House of Commons on 20th October when the Treasury will tell us how much each government department can spend until the end of this Westminster parliament in 2015.

The wad of cash that the Welsh Assembly has to spend will be determined by how successful the spending departments in Whitehall argue their case. Why? Because in those areas that Wales now runs for itself, like health, housing, education, transport etc it gets a percentage of the English spend in these same areas.

So the two Jones’s that run Wales will be very much hoping that some of these English Tory and Lib Dem Ministers pull a fast one over the Treasury and limit the cuts to their department. Yes, the more they get away with the more, we have to spend.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that, it never is it. There is a large chunk of public money spent in Wales that goes nowhere near Assembly politicians. Most of this direct UK government expenditure goes on welfare of one kind or another. Things like old age pensions, unemployment benefit, invalidity benefits, income support and tax credits. George Osborne, the Chancellor said in his budget that he was looking to reduce these by £15bn. And with Wales having many more people claiming these than the rest of the UK such cuts would have a major impact on our communities.

You don’t need Old Moore’s Almanac to predict that hard times are round the corner and its likely that Welsh people will vent their anger in the numerous ballot box opportunities that present themselves next year.

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