Language campaigners have criticized spending cuts on specific projects for the Welsh language in the Welsh Government’s draft budget.
The Welsh Government’s budget is increasing by over £ 1 billion, from £19 billion this year to £ 20.2 billion next year – a 5.8% increase in cash terms.
However, budgets for spending on the Welsh language in particular are falling in real terms by nearly £400,000 or 1.6% – including money that goes to organizations such as the Urdd and the Eisteddfod.
In addition, Ministers plan to cut the Welsh in Education budget by £1.65 million, or a 15% cut in real terms, next year as well.
In response to the news, Tamsin Davies of Cymdeithas yr Iaith said: “These cuts are unjustifiable. The Government has more than a billion extra pounds for next year, so at least the Government would be expected to increase Welsh language budgets in line with inflation.
“However, given their ambitious targets and their desire to increase the use of the Welsh language, they should actually be increasing the expenditure on Welsh language projects far more than that.
“The language seems to be no priority for this Government, and that is disappointing. Countries like the Basque Country spend far more than us – almost five times more – and that is one reason for the boom in use of Basque.”
Nick Ramsay AM, The Conservatives’ Shadow Minister for Finance, also criticised the draft budget, calling it a missed opportunity to deliver transformative change in Wales.
While acknowledging that the budget had been prepared against a backdrop of a General Election and Brexit, he said that a government must be able to plan and prepare for any number of eventualities.
Mr Ramsay welcomed the proposal to spend £421 million more on health, £200m for education infrastructure, and £140m on decarbonisation but said the jury is still out on whether these projects would deliver the change Wales.
“We now really need to see where the money will go,” he said.
“This budget sees an extra £600 million from the UK Treasury on top of the nearly £15 billion block grant it receives from the UK Government – not forgetting that for each £1 spent per head in England, £1.20 is pent per head in Wales.
“Will the extra funding for health really alleviate the problems of national scandals such as Betsi Cadwalladr University Health Board or Cwm Taf, and that half of Wales’ health boards are in some form of Welsh Government intervention? Will it improve A & E waiting times that have been missed again? Time will tell.
“Will the additional funding for education improve our country’s PISA ratings, or will we continue to languish in fourth place out of the UK nations?
“Will the budget actually deliver improvements to our road network, or following the debacle of the £144m spent on the M4 Relief Road inquiry – the Road to Nowhere – will we see more dithering and indecisiveness, which affects businesses, commuters, and the economy?
Mr Ramsay, who represents Monmouth, described the extra £4.8m to prop up Cardiff Airport as “concerning” and said there should be no “blank cheque” for the airport.
“Welsh Conservatives of course support initiatives to mitigate climate change and planting hundreds of thousands of trees in Uganda is all well and good, but we also need ambitious targets for tree planting and wider decarbonisation in Wales,” he said.
“It’s also concerning to see the Welsh Government propping up Cardiff Airport with an extra £4.8m when there is no evidence that previous “blank cheques” have had any sustainable effect.
“Welsh Conservatives welcome the considerable sums of money now coming to Wales as a result of the spending decisions of the UK Government.
“We now need a budget that delivers a dynamic, forward-thinking, and agile Wales but this budget falls sadly short.”
‘Out of ideas’
Plaid Cymru shadow minister for the economy and finance Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said that the Welsh Government’s draft budget lacked ambition.
“Twenty years of Labour rule in Wales has shown us that more money for our NHS doesn’t in itself mean better services,” he said.
“What we need to see from this Labour government is a strategic plan on how this extra funding will be spent on preventative measures instead of the continued mismanagement of our NHS and health boards that are still in special measures.
“Meanwhile, local government is still not being given the level of funding it so desperately needs to deliver crucial frontline public services.
“The £140m package for low carbon transport is not nearly ambitious enough and such a small package in the face of such a colossal global climate crisis shows that this Labour government isn’t taking the issue seriously enough.
“This is a Labour government that’s out of ideas and almost out of time.
“To compound the problem of Labour mismanagement, the truth is, that the Welsh Government’s budget will be tied to the priorities of whatever government is sitting in Westminster, and we know that UK Governments – of whichever colour – care little about addressing Wales’ needs.”