Wales Office criticised for putting out ‘disputed information’ over funding for farmers
The Wales Office has been criticised for putting out a social media post that includes what one Senedd Member calls “disputed information”.
The ad says that the UK Government has secured £337 million for Welsh farmers in the 2021/2022 financial year.
However Labour Senedd Member Alun Davies claimed that they were “publishing disputed information as fact”.
He pointed to the NFU Cymru and the FUW who said the Welsh agriculture budget was being slashed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision in the spending review.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales said the Welsh agriculture budget is being cut by £95 million and that this breaks the promise they were made in the Conservative election manifesto that they wouldn’t lose out on any funding after Brexit.
The union said that it expected Wales’ agricultural and rural development budget to be in the region of £337 million, but that the 2021-2022 budget will now be £242 million, which equates to a cut of around 28 per cent.
The Welsh Office ad, however, said in its post that spending will remain at £337m:
The UK Government has guaranteed funding for Wales’s farmers.
In 2021/22 this will match 2019 levels thanks to £240 million of funding from the UK Treasury. pic.twitter.com/lOZxaA0GPy
— UK Government in Wales (@UKGovWales) November 29, 2020
Former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies, however, questioned the claim:
— Alun Davies MS / AS 🏴 🇪🇺 🏳️🌈 (@AlunDaviesMS) November 29, 2020
This week, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs called for those claiming there were cuts to “withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately”.
“The claims made of a ‘Brexit betrayal’ over the Welsh agriculture budget and supposed cuts are just plain wrong,” she said.
“Let me be clear; the UK Government committed to maintain the level of funding to farmers in Wales and between their funding and the tapering off of EU funds this is exactly what they are doing. Anyone that says anything different is spouting nonsense.
“Those who are suggesting that this is not the case must withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately.”
However, the FUW refused to back down and have said that the Tories are counting figures that they shouldn’t be in their calculations.
Nick Fenwick, Head of Policy at the FUW said: “Based on the official figures published by the 2013 coalition government and the EU, the average annual funding made available to Wales through the EU CAP for the 2014-2020 period was around £330 million. The allocation announced yesterday is £240 million, which is around £90 million lower.
“The explanation for the difference appears to be that unspent EU money from the 2014-2020 CAP budget (which can be carried over into next year and beyond) is being used to make up the difference in order to validate claims that the total budget is the same – but that ‘carried over’ funding comes from the 2014-2020 budgetary period so shouldn’t be counted.
“Our concerns are shared by the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, as well as many others, and we have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation as to why a £90 million gap exists after unspent 2014-2020 funds are discounted.
“Until we receive satisfactory assurances that the Treasury will make the same amount available as the EU did through the CAP, we will maintain that the promise to match EU funding has not been met.”