Chancellor has ‘broken promise’ to level up Wales, Welsh Government says
The UK Government has broken its promise to ‘level up’ Wales, the Welsh Government said following the Chancellor’s spending review.
They said that there was “nothing new” for Wales in the statement and that Welsh priorities were “ignored” by Rishi Sunak.
“Despite warm words from the Chancellor about levelling-up, what was clear from today’s statement is that Wales is being drastically short-changed by a government which is breaking all its promises on replacing EU funding,” they said.
Wales’ Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said that before the spending review called on the Chancellor to rule out the public sector pay freeze announced and urged him to use UK Treasury levers to support fair pay and economic demand.
“The UK Government talks a good talk about investing in recovery, but they continue to refuse to invest in it. Today’s figures completely undermine our ability to plan for and invest in our recovery,” she said.
“The Chancellor also failed to acknowledge in his statement today that any multi-year settlements offered to public services are exclusive to England only, and do not apply to Wales, which makes our task of planning ahead extremely difficult.”
Paul Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said that today’s announcement by the Chancellor would be “welcome news across Wales”.
“And in fact, it is because of our strong United Kingdom that Wales is going to benefit from £1.3 billion for the Welsh Labour-led Government through the Barnett formula, including £700 million in relation to COVID-19,” he said.
“This can used by the Welsh Government to grow the economy, improve public services and support people and businesses across Wales. I said ‘this can be used’, but of course it is up to the First Minister and his Labour administration to determine how it is used. Welsh Conservatives will, naturally, be holding the government here to account each step of the way, and each pound allocated.”
Mr Davies also said that the UK Government had done much for Wales during the pandemic and lockdown, including supporting almost 400,000 jobs here through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and investing more than £1.6bn in over 50,000 businesses through the Bounce Bank Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
There had also been some 203,000 claims made through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme in Wales, he said.
“It’s been clear all through the pandemic just how necessary our United Kingdom is, how vital it is in levelling up all in the UK including in Wales, and how much belief the Chancellor and the UK Government has in our nation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, said that the UK Government’s Spending Review spells “disaster for Wales”.
The Ceredigion MP pointed to “broken promises” on Wales’s allocation of funding through the Shared Prosperity Fund and a drastically decreased comparability factor for transport spending as showing “blatantly clear that Westminster is seeking to undermine Welsh devolution”.
“Today’s Spending Review was a disaster for Wales, from a collapse in transport funding, a public sector pay freeze and the centralisation of replacement EU funds in Westminster,” he said.
“It is now blatantly clear that Westminster is seeking to undermine Welsh devolution.
“Wales received nearly £2 billion of investment, or £140 per head, from the European Union allocated by Wales on a needs-based basis. Westminster understood that when in 2016 they promised Wales ‘not a penny less’ through a Shared Prosperity Fund.
“Today the Chancellor failed to confirm that Wales’s share of the Shared Prosperity Fund will be decided according to need, that it will represent additional investment, and that Wales’s share will not be diminished over time.
“The Statement of Funding was also disastrous, with Barnett funding for Wales from transport spending falling from 80.9% to just 36.6%. This is due to HS2, a project expected to cost the UK government £106 billion and from which Wales won’t receive a penny.
“That Wales is losing out on crucial funding due to a vanity project in England is a sign of this Government’s antipathy towards Wales.”