FINANCE SECRETARY Mark Drakeford has responded to the UK government’s Autumn Budget saying it provides no significant boost for hard-pressed public services.
The Autumn Budget includes approximately £1b of additional capital funding for Wales between 2017-18 and 2020-21 – but more than half of this must be repaid to the UK Treasury.
The UK Budget also includes additional revenue funding of £215m for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20.
Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said: “While these small increases in the resources available to Wales are to be welcomed as they will help support our priorities, this additional funding will do little to ease the pressures on frontline public services, which have been struggling to cope as a result of the successive cuts to our budget we have experienced since 2010-11.
“Even with this additional funding, the Welsh Government’s budget will be 5% lower in real terms in 2019-20 than it was in 2010-11.
“As a result of the measures the Chancellor announced today the funding Wales receives from the block grant will increase. But more than half of this increase is in the form of funding which must be paid back to the UK Treasury. £650m of the additional capital funding is in the form of financial transactions – this is a form of capital funding which must be repaid to the Treasury and there are tight restrictions on what it can be spent on.”
The Finance Secretary said the budget was also a missed opportunity to provide additional investment in infrastructure to support the economy during this period of uncertainty.
Professor Drakeford said: “The Office for Budget Responsibility has confirmed the UK economy has slowed markedly and its growth forecasts have again been revised downwards. In my recent letter to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I urged the UK government to listen to the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to take advantage of low interest rates and invest in economic infrastructure.
“This is why we called on the UK government to commit to important infrastructure projects in Wales, including the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. Once again the UK government has failed Wales by failing to invest in key projects.”
He added that the UK Budget gave little detail regarding additional funding about UK government plans to cut the public sector pay cap and give public sector workers a much-needed pay rise.
“The Welsh Government, standing with our hard working public sector workers and trade unions, has repeatedly called on the UK government to lift the public sector pay cap and provide additional funding to give workers across the UK the pay rise they deserve. I was clear this must be fully funded.
“Today’s Budget was a missed opportunity to do this for all public sector workers. For NHS staff who are waiting the outcome of the independent pay review body, I expect the Chancellor to honour his commitment to fund any pay recommendations in full and to provide a full Barnett consequential.”
The Cabinet Secretary also said there must now be discussions between the Welsh and UK governments about the UK government’s intention to explore a tax on plastics – the Welsh Government is currently investigating a disposable plastic tax as one of four new tax ideas.
“I am pleased the UK government is taking our lead in considering how to use taxation to change behaviour in areas such as disposable plastic.
“I announced a tax on disposable plastic as part of the shortlist of proposed taxes in October, I expect to discuss this in detail with the UK government as part of its evidence gathering.”
BUDGET A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Welsh Lib Dem Leader Jane Dodds commented: “This budget presents a missed opportunity for Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have presented an ambitious vision for Wales, it is disappointing that the Chancellor lacks this ambition.
“Instead of investing in making Wales a world leader in Tidal Energy by giving the green light to the Swansea Tidal Lagoon or giving South Wales the transport investment it needs the Chancellor decided to throw £3b into a Brexit black hole. It’s clear only the Welsh Liberal Democrats have the ambition and ideas needed to ensure opportunity for Wales.
“As one of the most deprived regions of the UK and even the EU, Wales has suffered more than most from austerity. With the Chancellor failing to take meaningful action on Universal Credit and the public sector pay cap and growth set to be much slower than expected, this suffering will only continue.
“The Chancellor needed to immediately end the roll out of Universal Credit to prevent rising child poverty and homelessness and end the public sector pay cap to end the scandal of public sector workers relying on food banks to survive. It is bitterly disappointing the Chancellor has failed on both counts.
“This budget is yet another example of the crippling damage Brexit is already doing to the Welsh Economy. Instead of investing in public services or vital infrastructure projects, the Chancellor is spending £3b preparing for a disastrous no deal Brexit his party foolishly refuse to rule out. The Welsh people deserve to have the final say on the Brexit deal and a chance to choose an exit from Brexit.”
WALES ‘LEFT OUT IN THE COLD’
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson and Carmarthenshire Member of Parliament, Jonathan Edwards, said that the British Government once again delivered a budget for the south-east of England whilst Wales is ‘left out in the cold’.
Mr Edwards said the only we can build a better Wales is to demand the tools to do it ourselves.
Speaking after the Budget statement Jonathan Edwards MP said: “In prolonging austerity well into the next decade and sticking to the most economically damaging form of Brexit, the squeeze on living standards will only get worse.
“There was nothing in the budget to drive up wages, and nothing to push down the cost of living.
“For the second budget in a row, economic growth, business investment and productivity have all been downgraded. The result of the Chancellor’s stubborn insistence on sticking to his failed plan is ultimately felt in people’s pockets through lower wages.
“Once again the British Government has delivered a City-centric budget, deliberately overheating the south east of England while Wales is left out in the cold. Our roads and railways are neglected whilst Welsh taxpayers’ money is pumped into London.
“The only way we can build a better Wales, drive up wages and spread prosperity is to demand the tools so we can get on with the job of doing it ourselves.”