Ben Lloyd, WCVA Head of Policy, picks out the highlights from UK Government’s recent Spending Review.
This was an interesting spending review from UK Government. At a time when government across the world faces the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic, it isn’t a surprise that public spending remains at higher levels. Sadly, while the number painted by the Chancellor about the impact of the pandemic on economic growth and job numbers won’t be a surprise, they will remain astoundingly high.
As a consequence of this, Welsh Government will see a rise in its spending power next year, compared to what was expected before the pandemic. I hope additional funds will help to get support COVID-19 pandemic, and to rebuild our economy following this. Much of this additional spend will likely be allocated to specific programmes to support this crisis.
However, the Chancellor also announced a number of other schemes which will be of interest to the voluntary sector in Wales.
Firstly, there were some, but not many, details about the Shared Prosperity Fund. In the document which followed, the key aims were outlined: investment in people and skills, in communities and place, and in local businesses. However, the lack of significant details is frustrating to the voluntary sector. Pilot programmes with a total of £220 million will be launched next year. More worryingly, it also looks like it will a top-down fund, with limited Welsh input – this means an opportunity could be lost to align this with Welsh Government programmes to maximise the impact of both. Finally, we also don’t know what the indicative allocations for Wales will be – and whether this has been reduced from current levels. If there is duplication of work between this fund and the Welsh Government’s statutory responsibilities, this will be re-enforced.
We plan to post a longer analysis next week. With these funds currently underpinning a wide range of economic and social activities in Wales (including WCVA’s Active Inclusion Fund), many voluntary sector organisations and community groups are eager to find out more detail than has been provided so far.
Secondly, WCVA is concerned about the decision to reduce the international aid budget, which risks hurting those who are worst off in the world. At a time when our global links have been demonstrated by the quick spread of the coronavirus, overseas health and development spending should not be a target. UK Government should reconsider this cut.
Finally, WCVA would encourage Welsh Government to spend the Barnett consequential from the Levelling Up Fund in England on communities in Wales. A focus on community development is welcome from any government. Our colleagues in England will be looking to maximise the potential of this fund by putting communities at the heart of it. Here in Wales, the significant consequential that will come about from this fund could help boost those communities which need the most support, and often lack community infrastructure. However, the Welsh Government will need to make sure this fund is a grassroots fund, which focuses on well-being.
In the next few weeks, we will likely hear more about the DWP Restart programme and the investment in infrastructure and, after speaking with colleagues across the sector, WCVA will reflect those views to the UK Government.
If you have any views on the contents of the Comprehensive Spending Review, or the contents of this article, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.