Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
An extra £420 million could be spent on health and social care in Wales, the Welsh Government’s draft 2021-22 budget shows.
The Welsh Government has announced the NHS could benefit from an increase of £385 million, bringing its total budget for the 2021-22 financial year to more than £8.4 billion.
Wales has received £5 billion from the UK Government this year to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic response, however this will fall to £766 million in 2021-22.
Of this £766 million, £77 million has been set aside as part of an initial response package to help extend schemes such as contact tracing and free school meals through to the end of 2021-22.
This will be supported by a one per cent increase in Land Transaction Tax – Wales’ equivalent of Stamp Duty – for the higher residential rates. These higher rates usually apply to second homes and buy to let properties.
For non-residential property, the starting threshold on purchases would be increased by 50 per cent. Businesses would not pay tax on properties costing up to £225,000.
The draft budget says these changes would generate around £13 million for investment in social housing.
The Welsh Government also plans to maintain budgets for promoting the Welsh language and Welsh in education at £20.9 million and £12.7 million respectively.
As part of the Welsh Government’s plan to build 3,500 affordable homes each year, they plan to invest an additional £47 million taking the total investment into social housing grants for 2021-22 to £200 million.
An extra £40 million will be provided for modern education infrastructure, including £5 million for a net-zero schools’ pilot.
To encourage sustainable transport, funding for active travel, such as walking and cycling, will be increased by £20 million. £274.7 million will be invested in rail and metro.
More than £20 million will be provided to support growing numbers of students in further education and £9.4 million will be invested in community and mental health services.
However, like-for-like funding across Wales is still below 2010 levels.
The Welsh Government’s finance minister Rebecca Evans said: “As we plan for our first steps beyond the pandemic, this budget is designed to protect health and our economy, build a greener future and create change for a more prosperous, more equal, and a greener Wales.
“Despite the most challenging circumstances we have ever faced as a government, I am proud to announce a budget that delivers on our values and provides sound foundations for the next administration.
“While like for like funding per person in Wales remains below 2010 levels, our priorities will steer a course for stability, protecting what matters most and creating the change that is essential to a good recovery.”
The draft budget has been criticised by the Welsh Conservative shadow finance minister Nick Ramsay, who described it as “a missed opportunity to build back better” and has “failed to deliver a recovery plan for Wales.”
Mr Ramsay said: “This budget is clearly a missed opportunity to build back better and represents more of the same from this tired Welsh Labour Government.
“The Welsh Government had an opportunity today but has failed to deliver a recovery plan for Wales.
“Instead of promoting aspiration and opportunity, they want to go back to taxing homeowners when they buy a house worth between £180,000 and £250,000.
“And instead of supporting our young people by giving them the funding they need, the Welsh Government is spending £8.3 million on curriculum reform in Wales, and not delivering the basics to improve our education rankings on the UK and international stage.”
The final budget for 2021-22 will be published on March 2.