Chancellor’s budget branded ‘champagne neoliberalism’ by Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has branded the Chancellor’s budget, which cuts taxes on sparkling wine, as “champagne neoliberalism”.
Rishi Sunak has been criticised for cutting taxes on flights and bank profits “while the planet burns”, in which £120m was earmarked for ten so called levelling-up projects in Wales.
With the levelling up fund the UK Government has centralised power over funding in Westminster that used to be controlled by the Welsh Government.
The Chancellor also promised to increase Welsh Government budgets by an average of £2.5bn a year in the budget, as well as frozen plans to increase fuel duty.
Sunak said: “We are, always will be, one family, one United Kingdom.”
He added: “An additional £2.5bn per year in Barnett funding means the Welsh government is well-funded to deliver all their devolved responsibilities, while the people in Wales will also benefit from this government’s commitment to levelling-up opportunity and delivering for all parts of the UK.”
Adam Price said: “Cutting tax on domestic aviation, sparkling wine and bank profits while the planet burns + working families struggle. This is all you need to know about Westminster’s priorities. We needed moral leadership.”
The party’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said: “With millions of people facing a cost of living crisis, today we needed a transformative Budget that would put money in people’s pockets in the short and long-term as well as ambitious policies to set a global example ahead of COP26. The Chancellor failed on both counts.
“The crippling on households impact of inflation rising to 4% required a substantial intervention from the Chancellor. But the taper rate reduction for Universal Credit only gives back £2bn of the £6bn taken away by the £20 cut across the UK – and leaving only a fraction of the £286m taken out of Wales’ local economies.
“£2.5bn for Wales is a good headline for the UK Government. But let’s put that into perspective. Wales is owed around £5bn in consequential funding from HS2, which the Chancellor once again today decided to withhold from Wales.
“Indeed, instead of prioritising investment in rail transport infrastructure, the Chancellor decided to incentivise people to take short-haul domestic flights – setting an incredibly poor international example ahead of COP26. Absent was any mention of home insulation – which in Wales would require £360m of annual funding from the UK Government if we are to address the climate crisis.
“Proposals to increase R&D are welcome but risk further entrenching the huge disparities in R&D investment which is already four times higher in the south east of England than in Wales.
“We are losing out today – and it’s clearer than ever that Westminster simply isn’t working for Wales.”
‘Hasn’t delivered for Wales’
Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister, said: “This UK Government Spending Review hasn’t delivered for Wales. Vital funding priorities, such as the long-term remediation of coal tips and greater funding in rail infrastructure, have been ignored.
“While the Spending Review does give us some medium term financial certainty and some additional investment, it is more than offset by the inflationary and system pressures that we are facing. The budget fails to meet the scale of the challenge that families, public services and the wider economy are still facing as a result of the pandemic.
“The fact remains that there are clear gaps in funding where the UK Government should be investing in Wales and it has chosen not to. Arrangements for replacing EU Structural Funds remain unclear but what we do know is it falls well short of the £375m we were receiving – these are funds that support skills, businesses and decarbonisation.
“HS2 is expected to have a negative impact of £150m per year on the Welsh economy, while the failure to back a long-term solution for Wales’ coal tips could create an additional financial pressure of at least £60m per year.
“The limited measures announced by the Chancellor to help households grappling with the increase in the cost of living don’t go nearly far enough. Further steps should be taken to target support to lower income families struggling as a result of the cut to Universal Credit, the future increase in National Insurance contributions, and spiralling energy prices.
“While there can be no doubt that we have been left with some difficult choices I am determined to deliver a Budget that builds a stronger, greener, fairer Wales – helping public services and our economy recover from the pandemic, and moving us closer towards being a zero-carbon nation.”
Commenting, Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance Minister, Peter Fox MS said: “Despite the unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic, this Conservative UK Government is getting on with the job and delivering on the priorities of people in Wales.
“This is a Budget which invests in a more innovative, high-skill economy, delivers world-class public services, backs business, helps working families with the cost of living. It has the potential to fast track the Welsh economic recovery.
“Rishi Sunak has delivered the biggest ever block grant to Wales, one that can level up our country if ministers in Cardiff Bay finally step up to the plate and deliver policies to improve our economy and public services, which have been held back by successive Labour administrations.
“Labour’s playbook of excuses has run out and it’s time they used the tools at their disposal to get on with the job and kickstart the Welsh economy, tackle the NHS crisis, and deliver a better future for our children, rather than their constant obsession with powers and the constitution.”
Commenting on the budget announcements by the Chancellor, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS stated: “I welcome the news that Wales will receive a boost in its budget, however as always the devil will be in the detail. What we really need is an increase in powers here in Wales and in local communities to ensure that additional funds are spent in a way which provides the greatest benefit to the people of Wales.”
“I am also still seriously concerned about the impact of the universal credit cut on large sections of the Welsh population. Greater investment is needed in people if we are to see real social mobility in Wales. His tax hike on national insurance will leave thousands of Welsh families struggling to cope with the cost of living crisis.
“I would also like to see clarity over the announced ‘Multiply Numeracy Programme’ which the Chancellor referred to as a UK-wide programme funded by the shared prosperity fund, despite education being devolved in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“On another note, it is shocking to see the UK Government is cutting air passenger duty on the eve of COP26, what message does this send to the world about how seriously we take our climate goals?”