Today’s Welsh Government budget set to include Plaid-Labour co-operation agreement commitments
The Welsh Government budget to be published today is set to include priorities agreed between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government in their new co-operation agreement, including free school meals for all primary pupils and free childcare for all two year-olds.
The government said that investment to tackle the climate and nature emergency will be at the heart of the budget, while Plaid Cymru pointed to areas that would secure transformational support for “some of our poorest households” and “change people’s lives for the better across Wales”.
The co-operation agreement covers 46 policy areas, including the extension of free school meals to all primary school pupils and childcare provision; the creation of a national care service and immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis.
Plaid Cymru Finance Spokesperson Llyr Gruffydd said that the commitments would “build the nation and strengthen Wales in a number of areas”.
“Thanks to Plaid Cymru, this budget will deliver an even fairer, even greener, even stronger Wales through ambitious policy pledges,” he said.
“From free school meals for all primary pupils to extending free childcare to all two-year-olds and much more, the commitments secured by Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-operation Agreement with Welsh Government will secure transformational support for some of our poorest households and will change people’s lives for the better across Wales.”
The Welsh Government in the meantime pointed to the green investment of more than £160m revenue and a total investment of £1.8bn capital will be committed over the next three years.
Responding to both the climate and nature emergency it will be spent in a range of areas including the national forest, biodiversity, active travel, the circular economy, renewable energy, flooding, and decarbonising housing, they said.
Wales has a legacy of over 2,500 coal tips pre-dating devolution and due to the growing impacts of climate change these tips are now exposed to increased risks of slippage. The Welsh Government will also provide funding to support essential maintenance works and to develop a future reclamation programme, with an additional £4.5m and total capital investment of £44.4m. It follows the UK Government’s decision not to provide funding of its own in October’s Spending Review.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said that today’s budget would “shape the Wales we want to hand over to future generations”.
“Tackling the climate and nature emergency will require a collective effort and as a Government we know it’s vital we step up and lead the way,” she said.
“That’s why we’re providing significant investment in a wide range of areas, so Wales can cut emissions and be a greener nation.
“The effects of the climate and nature emergency are with us now. Intensifying rainfall and increasing temperatures have added to the urgency of providing funding to make coal tips safer. The UK Government failed to act but our funding will provide some reassurance to the communities.
“This budget will leave Wales in a better place to manage the effects of the climate and nature emergency that are already affecting so many communities in Wales, and will only affect more in the future. We can never lose sight of the importance of protecting our planet.”
In April 2019 Wales was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency and in October this year the Welsh Government published ‘Net Zero Wales’ – setting the foundations to make Wales net zero by 2050.
The Welsh Conservatives meanwhile said that the Welsh Government “must prioritise economic and public service recovery” in the upcoming budget.
The draft budget, outlining proposals for the strategic spending, taxation and financing plans of the Welsh Government, will be published tomorrow, 20 December for scrutiny by the finance and policy committees.
Commenting ahead of the budget, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Finance, Peter Fox MS said: “Labour have been responsible for running Wales since the days of Tony Blair, but along with their nationalist helpers, they’ve consistently failed to improve our economy and public services.”
He said they were calling for a package of measures that tackles deep-rooted problems in Wales’ health and social care services and support businesses during the pandemic.
Mr Fox said: “As we continue to face challenges from the pandemic, Labour ministers must use this budget to prioritise Wales’ recovery and address societal pressures rather than wasteful socialist and nationalist pet projects such as constitutional change and more politicians.
“Welsh Conservatives want to see the urgent introduction of a compensation fund for businesses who are being hit by cancellations in the wake of Omicron, as well as the extension of the business rates holiday to help firms on the road to recovery, securing jobs across Wales.
“We also cannot afford to ignore other serious problems in public health and social care, and this is an opportune time for ministers to listen to our long-held calls for the introduction of regional surgical hubs so we can ease the pressure on hospitals and start tackling Labour’s huge NHS waiting list backlog.
“The Conservative UK Government has provided Labour ministers with record funding to deliver for Welsh communities – an extra £2.5 billion per year on average on top of its annual funding of £15.9 billion – and it’s vital this is used to help councils keep bills low for working families, rectifies the chronic underfunding of schools, and ensures our infrastructure is fit for the 21st century.
“This record budget must be invested wisely to deliver on the priorities of working people, and with a laser light focus on creating better-paid jobs and delivering vital public services.”
Llyr Gruffydd of Plaid Cymru meanwhile said that “far more could be done” if the Welsh budget wasn’t dictated by a Westminster Government so “out of touch” with the needs of Wales.
He said that Wales would be better off to the tune of around £3 billion had Wales’ budget increased in line with the size of the UK economy since 2010.
Instead, Wales had been left to “foot the bill” for costly projects like HS2 and had seen 275,000 families plunged into poverty due to the Universal Credit cut earlier this year, he said.
“In reality of course, far more could be done if the size and scale of the Welsh budget wasn’t dictated by a Tory UK Government in Westminster that is out of sight and so out of touch with our nation’s needs,” he said.
“Had the Budget increased in line with the size of the UK economy since 2010, Wales would be better off to the tune of £3billion.
“Instead, we are expected to foot the bill for eye-watering expenditure such as the HS2 rail project, set to be built entirely outside Wales and to the detriment of our economy.
“The Prime Minister’s cruel cut to Universal Credit is taking more than £280m from local economies and 275,000 Welsh families face being plunged into poverty.
“That is why Plaid Cymru will continue to make the case for more financial powers for Wales so that economic policy is driven by what is best for our communities and public services, not what works best for Boris Johnson and his Cabinet of millionaires.”
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