UK Treasury won’t allow Welsh Government ‘flexibility’ over coronavirus budget

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans. Photo by Senedd Cymru and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The Welsh Government have said that today’s meeting with the UK Treasury was a “missed opportunity”.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said the Treasury refused to allow her government greater budgetary flexibilities to meet the financial pressures associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay met with Wales’ Finance as well as her Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts to discuss arrangements for the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.

But the Treasury today did not agree the Welsh Government’s request to access a greater share of the Welsh Reserve this year – the Welsh Reserve is a savings pot which the Welsh Government builds up and can draw on to boost its budget in emergencies – and other budget flexibilities to help relieve spending pressures.

The Welsh Government also raised questions about the £1.2bn announced by the UK Government yesterday for Wales to respond to the pandemic.

£675m related to spending on PPE and the winter pressures funding, which has already been announced, and all of it was the Barnett share of announced or planned spend in England, they said.

 

‘Long-term damage’

“I welcome the certainty that last night’s announcement brings – I know what we can expect for the remainder of this year to deal with coronavirus ahead of any funding announcements in England,” Rebecca Evans said.

“I am pleased the UK Government has listened to and acted on my calls for certainty and clarity.

“But let’s be clear, only a proportion of this is genuinely new money. It’s a far cry from what Wales will need to reverse the long-term damage caused by the pandemic.

“This was also a missed opportunity for the Treasury to give us the much-need budget flexibilities, which will allow us to manage some of the coronavirus pressures by ourselves, within our own budgets.”

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