Mark Drakeford ‘irresponsible’ and ‘particularly disingenuous’ on UK Government funding for Wales says Simon Hart
The Welsh Secretary has said that the Welsh Government has been “particularly disingenuous” and the Mark Drakeford “very irresponsible” on the issue of funding by the UK Government.
He said that there was an effort to “deliberately confuse” positive economic stories about support the UK Government was giving Wales.
“I think it is very irresponsible of the First Minister to potentially damage economic recovery on the back of a political opportunity,” he said.
Earlier this month the First Minister said that Wales had been denied money it had been promised as a result of the UK Government’s plan for an energy costs rebate in England.
This claim was denied by the UK Government, saying that Wales will receive £180m under the Barnett Formula.
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans later clarified that the £180m increase had been offset by a £189m reduction in how much the Treasury had said they would receive in January elsewhere due to a reduced need for Covid restrictions.
Speaking at the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was asked by Chair Stephen Crabb MP why the figures were disputed “when you are dealing with numbers that should have a basis in fact?”
Simon Hart answered that there is “always a bit of politics in play” and “I do not think anybody in this room will be surprised by that”.
“I think that in this instance the Welsh Government were particularly disingenuous in trying to conflate two totally separate issues,” the Welsh Secretary said.
“It is not often that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury takes to the airwaves instantaneously in a fit of real indignation and frustration about something that was a positive story for families and businesses in Wales getting deliberately confused as a result of a political intervention.
He said that it was “absolutely indisputable” that the £180m was new money that Wales would be receiving, but of the money promised for Covid restrictions “it is also indisputable that estimates are estimates, and always have been”.
“They have always had the caveat of, ‘Do not base your budgets on these estimates because they will change.’ As a result of the success of the vaccination programme, and our early exit from some of the covid restrictions, those estimates about health spending were reduced. That is a thing to be happy about.
“As a consequence of that, the [money made available to Wales] was reduced by a similar proportion. That is not people being deprived of money they were due; it
is a result of a successful vaccination programme saving thousands of jobs and thousands of businesses.
“To conflate one with two is nothing more than political, and actually damages job creation and job-sustaining opportunities in Wales.
“I think it is very irresponsible of the First Minister to potentially damage economic recovery on the back of a political opportunity.”
On February the 15th the Welsh Government announced a £150 cost-of-living payment and an extra £200 for low-income households through the Winter Fuel Payment next winter.
The £150 cost-of-living payment will be provided to all households who live in properties in council tax bands A-D, as well as recipients of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in all bands.
Announcing the support, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said that the extra support was being provided despite “no additional funding” by the Treasury, which she called a “disappointing decision by the UK Government”.
She claimed that despite this the Welsh Government had gone “above and beyond” in providing support for households.
“We believe the action that we take will make a real difference, but people still face challenges,” she said. “Those major levels lie in the hands of the UK Government and we don’t have them here in Wales.
“We need to see a change of approach from Westminster. We need to see them step up to support people. Let’s share some of that wealth with people who are struggling to pay their bills.
“We will continue to make the case to the UK Government that they change their approach.”
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