Finance Minister meets UK Government’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury to discuss Port Talbot crisis
Wales’ Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has met the UK Government’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury, with the devastating job losses threatened at Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant at the forefront of discussions.
The meeting with the Chief Secretary took place in Edinburgh as part of a series of cross-government finance meetings hosted by the Scottish Government.
Rebecca Evans raised concerns in relation to the potential closure of the blast furnaces at Tata’s Port Talbot site, and the importance of support for those impacted at the steel works and within the wider community.
She said: “The speed and scale of the threatened job losses are a serious concern. It is crucial that the UK Government, working with Tata steel, takes steps to ease the transition to greener steel and preserve more jobs.
“It is extremely important that the funds promised by the UK Government impact across all communities and individuals affected by redundancy and closures – the ramifications of this situation are far-reaching.”
The Minister also discussed the UK Government’s willingness to grant additional budget flexibility to both the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland, but not to Wales.
She said: “We are simply seeking parity with Scotland to hold the budget flexibilities we should, rightly, hold here. The current limits on our flexibility makes it harder to respond quickly to emerging needs which in turn hampers our ability to maximise value for money.”
Prior to the meeting with the Chief Secretary, Ministers and representatives from all four UK nations convened for their quarterly Finance: Inter-ministerial Standing Committee, where Ms Evans made the case for more funding for public services.
She said: “I urge the UK Government to use any emerging fiscal headroom to provide critical resources for public services in the Spring Budget. A choice to cut taxes is effectively a choice to cut spending, and the Chancellor needs to recognise the significant pressures faced by the already hard-pressed services upon which the public depends.”
Both Wales and Scotland’s Ministers reiterated how the cost-of-living crisis should be a priority within the upcoming Spring Budget, signalling support for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust’s calls for the UK Government to fundamentally reform how benefit rates are determined and implement an Essentials Guarantee to ensure people are at least able to meet their basic costs.
During the meeting, the UK Government was also pressed on other key priorities including calls to reclassify HS2 as an England-only project and review rail infrastructure funding, and to make a funding contribution towards remediation of drainage systems at coal tip sites.
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