Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Where do the cuts fall - Wales's budget

For any government getting its budget through is its first and highest priority. All other things stem from it. Without a majority it’s no mean task that the Welsh Government has ahead. Placing of the draft budget before the Assembly is only the start of the process. It’s the vote in five weeks time that’s crucial. 

So the process of arm twisting and perhaps even pork barrel politics to persuade either one person from the opposition to break ranks or at least one of the opposition parties to back its plans.

However, Mr. Osborne has come to the Welsh governments rescue. Yes, there’s a £40m gift in the post courtesy of the decision to freeze Council tax in England. Wales gets a percentage of this which is £40m as a consequence of our old friend the Barnett formula.

So our Jane will use it as an inducement to win one of the opposition parties over to her budget.

You can be certain, despite the posturing of Andrew RT Davies as Leader of the Opposition, the one thing it won’t be spent on will be freezing council tax. With local elections due next May councils will be very careful with their council tax this next year, so why send them an extra £40m when it can be more usefully employed buying a favourable budget vote.

So who will ride the white horse and save the Welsh government’s cash plans.

The money must be on Plaid Cymru. Why? Well, that canny operator Ieuan Wyn Jones, Leader of Plaid Cymru has criticised the budget for not doing enough for the economy and is insisting that the government strengthen Edwina Hart’s budget - a department that a little cash could be used with great effect - £40m for instance.

The other opposition parties are demanding more for health and education, knowing that to have any real effect a much larger wad of cash would be required. And as partners in the government in Westminster they know full well that kind of cash is not available.

So the kudos of changing the governments mind on the budget will go to Plaid Cymru. But to misquote Harold Wilson five weeks is an awful lot of time in politics, so watch this space.

As for the budget itself, understandably Labour’s manifesto commitments get priority with:

£75m invested over the next three years in a new Jobs Growth Wales scheme with the aim of helping 4,000 young people every year through training and employment opportunities.

£55m for Flying Start scheme to help an additional 18,000 children.

An extra £27m will be invested in schools in 2014/15 and another £288m will be put into the NHS in Wales over the next three years.

500 new police community support officers will be put on the streets.

The government’s populist schemes are unaffected. Pupils will continue to receive free breakfasts, the sick their free prescriptions and free swimming and the concessionary travel fares will still be available.

All other departments will see their budgets cut – Local Government by 2.1%, Environment by 0.9%, Housing, Regeneration and Heritage by 4.9% and Central Services and Administration by 3.6%.

The overall effect of the budget is a cut of 6% in revenue and 21% cut in capital expenditure.

Lean times are indeed about to arrive.

1 comment:

  1. You seem more interested in talking about back room deals than holding each party to account for its actions and inactions.

    It is this poor political reporting that gives Wales and the Assembly a bad name.

    Start asking sensible questions and start printing the answers you receive.