Interior of Neuadd & Oriel inside the Senedd

Assembly holds Budget debate

Published : 07/02/20 | Categories: Influencing |

Assembly Members have held their debate on Welsh Government’s draft Budget.

Head shot of Rebecca Evans AM, Finance Minister

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans started proceedings, commenting that UK Government ‘failures’ mean that Welsh Government cannot budget more than one year for ahead, and cannot consider budgeting for 2021 until the UK Government Budget on 11 March, as it may have ‘significant implications’ for spending. However, she added that the Budget Improvement Plan will allow Welsh Government to better incorporate the Future Generations and Social Services and Wellbeing Acts into future budgeting.

On the voluntary sector…

Plaid Cymru’s Dai Lloyd said the sector needs ‘a long-term sustainable funding arrangement’ and highlighted the Finance Committee recommendation that sector funding is provided on a three-yearly basis as a minimum.

Conservative AM Mark Isherwood warned against starving the sector of funding for vital preventative services and noted there is no statutory funding for organisations helping bereaved or autistic people.

On the environment…

The draft Budget offers a £140m capital package to support ambitions for the environment and decarbonisation, which the Minister said was part of a ‘wider picture’ of Welsh Government initiatives across government departments.

Conservative Nick Ramsay said the draft budget offers no plan for how Government will meet its greenhouse gases reduction target. Labour’s Alun Davies argued that the budget does not provide enough allocations for decarbonisation initiatives that the Future Generations Act and the climate emergency require, and called for more radicalism from the Government.

On Brexit…

Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd said that while EU structural funds will be replaced by the UK Government, similar assurances on agricultural support have not been sought. He called for Welsh Government to do so.

On poverty…

Llyr Gruffydd said the Finance Committee welcomes the inclusion of poverty on budget priorities but criticised the lack of clarity on tackling poverty’s root causes. He said low skilled and low paid jobs means upskilling is needed. Plaid’s Rhun ap Iorwerth said the budget does not include transformation preventative spend. He said the relationship between ill health and poverty is strong, but the budget does not seek to bring about ambitious change to address this.

On health…

Health Committee Chair, Plaid’s Dai Lloyd, highlighted comments made by the Future Generations Commissioner, who expressed concern that Welsh Government has not invested enough in preventative health spending in the draft budget. He called on Welsh Government to do better in future budgets.

On transport…

Nick Ramsay said whilst the budget outlines an additional £20m for the north Wales metro, there is no mention on upgrades for the A55. He called this a ‘wasted opportunity’ as the road will need to support exports through Holyhead to Ireland.

On local government…

Rhun ap Iorwerth said the Welsh Local Government Association believes councils in Wales need an increase of £215m just to ‘stand still’. He said for local government to play its full part in the preventative agenda, it needs to receive proper funding. Mark Reckless of the Brexit Party said structural change through mergers is needed to improve local authority service efficiency, which could make room for increased spending on health.

On the Welsh language…

Rhun ap Iorwerth said the target of a million Welsh speakers cannot be squared with a £400,000 real terms reduction in expenditure on the Welsh language. He said the budget for Welsh for adults should not be cut.

On housing…

Mark Isherwood said the settlement for the Housing Support Grant is a real-term cut which has been criticised by Cymorth Cymru, Community Housing Cymru and Welsh Women’s Aid. He said when combined with the Welsh Government’s distribution method, homelessness services will reach a tipping point, leading to increased pressures on the NHS which will be particularly bad in north Wales. Labour’s John Griffiths highlighted the Equality Committee’s budget scrutiny report’s headline recommendation: an increase in the budget allocations for the Housing Support Grant and the homelessness prevention budget line. He said that while Welsh Government claims that tackling homelessness is a priority, this claim is not reflected in the draft Budget.

On children and young people…

Children’s Committee Chair, Labour’s Lynne Neagle, said that Welsh Government should publish a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment on the draft budget. She welcomed the increased local government settlement, which will allow local authorities to spend more on schools, but highlighted the Committee’s scrutiny report recommendation that Welsh Government closely monitor local government spending to ensure that sufficient funding is being directed to schools.

The Minister highlighted the £10m allocated to support the introduction of the new curriculum, and the £15m allocated for professional learning for teachers, as examples of the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensuring that the new curriculum is properly funded in order to be a success.

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