First Minister warns Wales is facing toughest financial situation since devolution
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.”
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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