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First Minister warns Wales is facing toughest financial situation since devolution

09 Aug 2023 3 minute read
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford – Picture by Peter Byrne / PA

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford has warned that Wales is facing the toughest financial situation since devolution.

Mr Drakeford released a statement on Wednesday (August 9) setting out the significant financial pressures the Welsh Government is facing as a result of record levels of inflation.

The Cabinet met on the 1 August to discuss the 2023-24 budget and prepare for the 2024-25 budget round.

The First Minister said the Cabinet would work through the summer to mitigate the budgetary pressures and protect frontline public services.

In a statement, Mr Drakeford said: “When we made our budget for 2023-24, we drew on all our available resources to protect frontline services and provide targeted cost-of-living support to individuals and the economy.

“But even after doing all that, our financial position after the UK Spring Budget in March, was up to £900m lower in real terms than when that budget was set by the UK Government at the time of the last spending review in 2021.

“This is the toughest financial situation we have faced since devolution.

“We are in this position because of the record levels of inflation we have experienced post-pandemic; because of the mis-management of the economy and public finances by successive UK governments over the last 13 years and because of unfunded commitments made by the UK Government, particularly in relation to public sector pay.

“The Cabinet will be working over the summer to mitigate these budgetary pressures based on our principles, which include protecting frontline public services, as far as possible, and targeting support towards those at greatest need. A further update will be provided to the Senedd once this work has been completed.”

“Blame”

Commenting on the First Minister’s statement, James Evans MS said: “Today’s statement by the First Minster is a real kick in the teeth for the people of Wales. To lay blame for the gross mishandling of the Welsh purse on Westminster when Wales is currently receiving the largest funding settlement in the history of devolution shows the level of contempt and disregard Mark Drakeford has for his actions as First Minister.

“In March this year, Welsh Labour Ministers returned £150m to the Westminster government, after failing to spend the budget in time. While we should expect nothing less from an administration that has recently come under fire for dodging scrutiny at home over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, there should be no doubt that as things stand, democratic governance here in Wales is being given the back hand from Labour Ministers.

“We know that the First Minister is not one to take responsibility for his actions. We saw this when he misled the Senedd and was forced to correct the record over a statement he made regarding Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board. Today highlights the style and tone of Welsh Labour politics in Wales.

Mr Evans went on to say that the First Minister should have recalled parliament and made a statement to the Siambr instead of releasing a statement “away from cameras” and “away from the scrutiny of elected members”.

He added: “If this is the new norm in Welsh democracy, we should all be very concerned. We are three years away from the next Senedd election; however, I urge on back bench colleagues in Welsh Labour to take notice of the damage being done by an increasingly reckless administration.”


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Mai
Mai
8 months ago

They have money for 20m trees in Uganda, 250k for a Swansea mosque and about £40m for changing a 3 to a 2 on roadsigns let alone all the other money they waste – so don’t come pleading poverty to me for such disastrous project prioritisation and spending. It would be nice to do that all of course, especially after cancelling all road infrastructure improvements, but WE CANT AFFORD IT despite that. No wonder they are looking to re-band and hike our Council Tax during a cost of living crisis (if you added a conservatory they are planning to monetise… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai
karl
karl
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Tree’s give us all more oxygen, a mosque in swansea gives to the community. Roads are funded by council tax, so do you want more roads or lower council tax, can’t have both. Things you have pointed out are small change to the billions lost of EU money not replaced by the criminals in westminster while we refurb ugly building to an ever increasing cost.

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  karl

👏👏👏

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  karl

I’m ok on oxygen in Gwynedd thanks. £250k grant is too much for any religious institution. Local roads are maintained by council. They don’t finance or build much needed bypass like we need in Llanbedr. The rest is whataboutery in this context but I’m with you FWIW. All roses…

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
8 months ago

The “UK” is not working. Cymru needs to break free and forge a new path. We cannot rely on Westminster, it has been proven time and time again that Westminster only cares about the people Westminster is in pawn to and even in the best times Westminster has sought to deprive Cymru of funding. Westminster does not want a prosperous Cymru.

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

I’m not for giving this shower ANY more power – they have RUINED devolution for me with their authoritarian dumbing down ways and excessive climate posturing focus (to no global avail) all as the NHS crumbles.

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Labour is the problem not devolution.

Andy Williams
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Labour, Tories, Drakeford, their all of the same cloth. I had. faith in devolution, this idiot is slowly destroying it How can you commit millions to changing the default speed limit, then plead poverty in the Welsh budget?

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

But they will always get in here. Maybe we can hope for better people who are more rounded, capable, not hijacked by climate pressure groups and can actually read the room their voters inhabit but I cant see that really. Plaid are further to the left and even more obsessed with niche crusades. Just need a nice moderate centrist party that puts pragmatism and the citizens before its ideology and steamroller. Policy over ideology. But there just isn’t one. I cant support devolution any more, sadly. My dad would be gutted. As am I. Welsh Labour hates us and its… Read more »

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Quote: But they will always get in here In a democracy we don’t always get what we want. If Labour keep winning here then maybe its time the opposition parties re-evaluate their strategy (and I include Plaid within this criticism). Also first past the post does over exaggerate Labour’s dominance over Welsh politics. You don’t agree with their left wing agenda, that’s fair enough, I’m not exactly a fan either. But what would you have done if Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Prime Minister, would you have called for Westminster’s powers to be stripped away and have them sent them to Brussels?… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

👏👏👏

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Good post mate – even if you do ask quite a bit of me in setting up my own moderate balanced centrist party as a solution!!!!

Now Leanne has exited stage left and toothless Adam (SUCH a disappointment for such a fine intellect) its time to centre Plaid and give it the very best shot over these terrible failed unionists. I cant vote Labour or Tory after all. No wonder I’m wound up! I truly despair mind as I know what will happen 🙁 .

Riki
Riki
8 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Exactly! Wales was purposely handicapped by Westminster so it’s far more difficult for Wales to be run. This in turn creates a situation where most people of Wales come to a conclusion where they think the people of Wales can’t run their own country. It’s all designed to drive the people of Wales back into the arms of the English

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Authoritarian as in taken away our right to non-violent protest? Oh hold on, that was the Tories.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
8 months ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Totally Agree

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

As long as Westminster dictate how much we get to spend, how much we can borrow, and where our money is spent, eg HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail project, justice and policing, we will stay as we are. Independence will allow us to decide, not the party elected by the voters in England, to the benefit of England.

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Do you really think that Welsh Labour are truly to the benefit of Wales? I think less of them than I do the Westminster shambolic circus. No one I know likes them or has a good word for them.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

I want our country to be independent, that counts out Labour who are a unionist party. Nowhere in my post did I support Labour, where did you get that from?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

That’s funny because nobody I know likes the Tories or has a good word to say about them.

And before you ask I vote Plaid.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
8 months ago

As i have said Before the Tory party are now and have been for about 20 years an ENGLISH NATIONAL PARTY and do absoulty nothing for Wales

Rheinallt morgan
Rheinallt morgan
8 months ago
Reply to  Dai Ponty

They provide hospital facilities for a significant part of Wales which is ludicrous.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

This just proves how underfunded we are, untill we, the public, raised money for Ty Hafan, we had to send our sick children to England, and even now we still have to fundraise to keep it going as Westminster dont give enough funding to us. We were the only country in Europe without a dedicated childrens hospital, and Westminster’s answer was, there are plenty in England send them there.

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
8 months ago

Im sure they will find money to finance another 30 SMs though, all of whom will be mates and welcome to the gravy train.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

A bit like the House of Lords, but unlike the Lords they will be elected, proportionately, and be more representative of voters choices, and maybe end Labour’s majority,and make the Senedd more accountable.

The original mark
The original mark
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Exactly.

Andy Williams
8 months ago

Is anybody holding this clown of a FM to account, over 150 million pounds of unspent mone, sent back to the UK Treasury. I thought not. All forgotten about. I’m not defending the Tories, but does Drakeford take any responsibility for his actions?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
8 months ago
Reply to  Andy Williams

I can give you a superb example of massive economic incompetence on a scale that far exceeds anything that Welsh Labour has ever done using just two words.

Liz Truss

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

I know and agree but that is pure utter whatabouterry and excuses nor addresses nothing here. Here my aghast disquiet may have the tiniest bit of impact (just)?

Hywel
Hywel
8 months ago
Reply to  Andy Williams

Andy, the Treasury changed the rules about using unspent money without telling the Senedd and insisted it be returned to Westminster rather than using it in Cymru.
They move the goalposts on the sly and accuse us of profligacy, then cut the amount we’re due via the Barnett formula by nine hundred million pounds and steal 6 thousand million pounds of OUR money to pay for THEIR railways.
Wake up and smell the coffee we’re better off independent.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
8 months ago

It’s amazing. We have to tighten our belts in Wales because Whitehall controls our funding like a people trafficker would its victim’s passport where England can materialise billions to fund space ports , HS2, Eurovision contest in Liverpool, King Charles coronation.ect….. The list is endless. I don’t think Wales has been out of austerity since the Conservatives introduced it, although the reality is we wouldn’t have to tighten our belts if we didn’t leave the EU making a rod for our back or the Tories waste billions upon billions on hair brain schemes like faulty PPE supplies or rent a… Read more »

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I wish them well. Rhun seems more like regular Welsh people, with his feet on the ground and is more moderate, connected and well balanced over the last 2 incumbents. If he can pull a bit more centre and really connect with the red donkey voting South then we might have a stab at a change and with a more independent vibe than via any Westminster Labour puppets. I live in hope over the unlikely reality. I need hope – if only for my future health care.

The Reverend Eli Jenkins
The Reverend Eli Jenkins
8 months ago

Here is just an example of the real issue.The Senedd / Welsh Labour are Financially and Commercially Illiterate.add to below the $45million the Send Paid for thew airport and the other costs / losses / loans write offs not disclosed. Loads listed below are likely to, if not already been written off. ——————————————————— Request for Information – ATISN 15908I wrote to you on 6 January regarding your request for information.  Information requestedYou asked for the following information in relation to Cardiff Airport: The total cost to date that Welsh Government have incurred operating Cardiff Airport since its purchase.  Initial purchase… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

You should start a campaign for the sale of Manchester and Birmingham airports, both owned by local council’s. The money generated from the sale plus the savings of running costs, could pay for HS2, and we could have our railway money returned to us.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

People not wanting our railway funding, strange. You must be happy with the present system.

The Reverend Eli Jenkins
The Reverend Eli Jenkins
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

You can keep your sarcasm. Every pound wasted on this vanity project is a pound out of the pockets of those who need it. Read the Cross of Iron speech and consider.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago

Taking money from the people, let us talk vanity projects, £37 billion for a test and trace app that never materialised, £100 billion and counting on HS2, £22 billion on the house of commons referb, £14 billion on crossrail, I could quote more, now that is money taken from the people who need it.

Mai
Mai
8 months ago

Are they grinding it down as it doesn’t match their eco warrior pressure group lobbyist’s ideals? . Wales so does need an airport like any 1st world nation… They seem to be able to afford them on the tiniest Greek island after all… . Everyone makes out that its difficult to get to but of all the airport in the UK its the easiest and cheapest. Its 20 mins driving from J33. We should be supporting it not slamming it and all going via Heathrow 200+ miles away and paying £230 to park for 2 weeks. . Why can no… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

You strike me as a person who thinks that anyone to the left of Thatcher is a raving commie. I wager that it’s your poltical compass that’s awry here. The notion that Welsh Labour are far Left makes me chuckle fair play. Their policies are in hock with the neo-liberal consensus, no doubt about it.

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Annibendod

This SPECIFIC administration has communist traits indeed! Double standards in so many things (Waters who drives an SUV and has to Google ‘train’ or Drakeford who gets a driver 4 journeys to Heathrow for 1 trip) whilst hammering the proletariat out of their cars ‘for the planet’ . No M4 bypass but maybe a ZIL lane to come? I jest but I don’t like or trust them and yes I’m pretty much a centrist but do run 2 businesses for my sins so do fear and mistrust them more. We need a change not more poor administrators at huge cost.

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

I would be more than happy to use Cardiff if it offered the destinations I was travelling to. Perhaps if Air Passenger Duty was devolved to Wales like it is in both Scotland and Northern Ireland then maybe the airport would be able to attract more airlines at competitive rates.

The Reverend Eli Jenkins
The Reverend Eli Jenkins
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Tell me Mai, how to get to LAX or SFO or JFK from CWL ?

Rob
Rob
8 months ago

Connect via a hub. DUB (Aer Lingus), AMS (KLM), CDG (Air France) etc as it is with most other regional airports. If we had the power to set APD for long haul flights then maybe we could attract a direct CWL-JFK flights like most other European capitals do. Actually it would be more convenient that way then having to make the journey to or from LHR.

Hywel
Hywel
8 months ago

CWL is the only airport in the South West UK with a runway long enough for trans-Atlantic flights.
It could service these routes if we’d been “allowed” to vary the Passenger Tax to encourage people to use it, but we were denied the right as it would be too ‘competitive’ ! Yes! from the NatC’s!!

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
8 months ago

Undoubtedly, a major shortfall in money from Westminster and no more EU help is badly hitting Cymru. Whether Welsh Labour is completely blameless is another matter and it won’t be until we gain independence and full control of our finances that that will become clearer. What is beyond doubt is Cymru needs to be independent for any chance of a more prosperous future for all of us living here.

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

Who will be the ruling party in this Independence? Sincere q – fill in this huge mind gap for me but don’t say authoritarian incompetent same old Labour. Lie if you have to.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Yes, it’ll probably be Labour but at least the party will have no one else to blame for any failures. Though if Plaid begins to gain some momentum with our young, who are now supporting independence in ever increasing numbers, it could be them. The main thing is we’ll have self determination.

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

An independent Cymru, with a modern voting system, not the discredited FPTP system currently favoured by Westminster, could result in a coalition government, like quite a few European countries have, representing more of the population’s choice at the ballot box, and ending the two party system we currently put up with. I genuinely hope for this for my grandchildren’s future.

Rob
Rob
8 months ago
Reply to  Mai

Whoever the Welsh people vote for as it is in any other democracy. After independence Plaid Cymru would have served its purpose and the other mainstream parties would become fully independent of their masters in London. Labour would no longer be able to campaign on ‘sending a message to the Tories’, or blame everything on Westminster, and a Welsh centre right party would not have the baggage of Thatcher, or be linked with the likes of Bojo, Rees-Mogg etc.

Llyn
Llyn
8 months ago

Politically, at the moment expanding the Senedd (which I agree with) is not a wise idea. Who thinks that in this current climate it’s going to have a net benefit to any political party/politician advocating such a move at the same time that cuts in some health spending are being advocated?

Mai
Mai
8 months ago
Reply to  Llyn

I see you are a person of cunning principle. We need more services not administrators. Carers and social workers please not twits in meetings all day dreaming up new rules and constraints. Maybe even wealth creators – there’s a thing… This indulgence could be the death of them…

Gareth
Gareth
8 months ago
Reply to  Llyn
Llyn
Llyn
8 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Clearly Mark Drakeford is not happy with the financial settlement the UK has provided. However, there is little or nothing he can do about that and he has to decide how to spend the funds he has and at the same time finance the NHS and Education service in Wales. Not sure what your real world advice to him is?

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