Jane Hutt responds to UK Government Budget
Finance and Government Business Minister Jane Hutt yesterday responded to the UK Government’s Budget.
The Welsh Government has presented and passed Budgets focused on growth and jobs, and has consistently pressed the UK Government to take positive measures to do the same rather than persevere with its failing austerity plan. Over this year and next, the Welsh Government is putting more than £1bn of extra funding into the Welsh NHS.
As a result of the UK Government’s austerity programme, the Welsh Government’s Budget has been cut by 8% in real terms since 2010.
For Wales in 2015-16, the UK Budget will mean an additional £17.2m of revenue and £0.9m of capital.
The Finance Minister said:
“This is yet another Budget which leaves too many challenges and unanswered questions. The UK Government’s austerity programme during this Parliament has had a devastating impact on Wales and is set to continue with a further £30bn of cuts forecast up until 2017-18.
“Let’s not forget that since 2010, our Budget has been cut in real terms by 8% by the UK Government. That’s the equivalent of £1.5bn being taken out of the public services across Wales. We have always said that these cuts have been too fast and too deep and others agree. Only last week several independent commentators including the LSE said that the pace of the austerity programme had been a mistake.
“The Chancellor has given an additional £18m of consequentials to Wales during 2015-16. We’ll be considering how we allocate this additional funding to meet our Priorities for Wales and will be making an announcement in the near future.
“Ahead of the Budget, I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer setting out our priorities for Wales. In my letter to the Chancellor I highlighted the potential for investment in the North Wales Connectivity project and the South Wales Metro. As a Government, we are determined that Wales should not lose out to the rest of the UK in terms of infrastructure investment.
“This is the Chancellor’s fifth major Budget and another missed opportunity to address the crucial issue of fair funding for Wales, something the Welsh public also recognise. We have also been seeking greater financial flexibility to put us in line with other devolved administrations – the fact that neither of these have been addressed is disappointing to say the least.
“The announcement of negotiations on a Contract for Difference on the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project and the announcement that the UK Government intends to work with the Welsh Government and Cardiff City Council towards a City Deal for Cardiff, and the broader region around Cardiff, are welcomed. We have pressed hard for these announcements, however much more could have been achieved by now had the UK Government responded sooner to the Welsh Government’s call to embraced pro-growth measures.
“The announcement that the UK government will bring forward compensation to help energy intensive industries with higher electricity costs resulting from small-scale feed in tariffs for renewable generation should be good news for many important employers in Wales including Celsa. We have engaged with UK Ministers across Whitehall to press the importance of these types of employers and the jobs they bring to Wales. Similarly, the intention to reduce Severn Bridge tolls in 2018 is a measure that we have previously called for – we will continue to push for further reductions.”
“Our own Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan will deliver around £3.6bn of new investment in the Welsh economy and public services to boost long-term growth and create or support jobs across the whole of Wales. We will also continue to press for consequentials for Wales from the UK Government’s planned investments in HS2 and HS3 in England, so that further momentum can be injected into infrastructure investment in Wales.”
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