Drakeford accuses UK Government of ‘cruel and deliberate cuts’ to Welsh families’ benefits
Mark Drakeford has accused the UK Government of imposing “cruel and deliberate cuts” to the benefits Welsh families receive.
The First Minister was responding to a question from Labour MS Vikki Howells on the impact of the stark rise in the cost of living when he launched the scathing attack on Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration in Westminster.
He also criticised the Tory government for its “broken manifesto promise” not to hike national insurance.
He told the Senedd: “Llywydd, this crisis will have a profound impact on thousands of Welsh families.
“Cruel and deliberate cuts to benefits, failure to counteract fuel price rises, and a decision to go ahead with a broken manifesto promise not to raise national insurance contributions demonstrates that this is a crisis made in Downing Street.”
Howells added: “Supermarket grocery bills have risen and will climb further, households could end up paying £700 per year more on energy costs, and the Tory national insurance tax hike looms on the horizon.
“The Office for National Statistics is changing the way that it reports on living costs, so we’ll get a more accurate picture of the impact of Tory decisions in Westminster. They party; our communities pick up the bill. In contrast,
“Welsh Government policy, such as the winter fuel scheme, provides help. How else will your Government prioritise supporting people in Cynon Valley and throughout Wales who are most impacted by the cost-of-living crisis?”
‘Winter fuel scheme’
Drakeford answered: ” I thank Vikki Howells for that important question, Llywydd, and I thank her for drawing attention to the winter fuel scheme, particularly on a day when my colleague Jane Hutt has been able to announce a doubling of the amount of help available from it—you know, a really fantastic thing to be able to do in the face of all the challenges that we know families in Wales will now have to live through.
“So, £200 available now. As of yesterday, Llywydd, there had already been 146,000 applicants for that fund, and over 106,000 applications had already been paid out. The application deadline has been extended to 28 February, and we want more people to come forward to take advantage of the scheme that will be available here in Wales, and only here in Wales.
“And, Llywydd, in answer to Vikki Howells’s wider question, that is just one element of a much broader package of help that we will go on providing to those families who see real difficulties ahead for them this year.
“The council tax benefit scheme, abolished in England, retained here in Wales—£244 million provided every year by the Welsh Government to make sure that the poorest families, the poorest households in our land, do not have to contribute to the council tax. The discretionary assistance fund, abolished in England, retained here in Wales, and for COVID reasons alone, Llywydd, has paid out over 280,000 payments at a cost of more than £19 million.
“And if you want to take just one example, Llywydd, the emblematic example, in April of this year, patients in England who find themselves unwell and need to get a prescription from their doctor will find it—[Interruption.] Patients in England—[Interruption.]
“Patients in England, Llywydd, who find themselves falling ill and who need help through a prescription will be paying £9.35 for every single item, and, in England, the Conservative Government will add to that by raising the age range at which prescriptions become free.
“Free at the age of 60 now, the plan is to raise it to 65—2.6 million more people later on in life will find themselves paying that £9.35, and not a single one of them, Llywydd, will pay that money here in Wales.”
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