Welsh Government budget a ‘missed opportunity’ to tackle inequality say Plaid Cymru
Plaid Cymru has said that the Welsh Government’s budget, due to be announced later, is a “missed opportunity” to tackle inequality.
The Welsh Conservatives have also said that the Welsh Government’s spending plans have ignored the retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors.
The First Minister announced yesterday that they were allocating an extra £682m to help public services through the pandemic.
But the Welsh Government faces a budget squeeze as the extra £5bn to fight the pandemic allocated to Wales by the Treasury last year is expected to fall to £766m.
However, they said that their package of business support was “the most generous” in the UK.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Finance Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said that money from the budget should be targeted on different priorities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on public expenditure in Wales and has exposed inequalities at the heart of our society. This budget has sadly failed to get to grips with that,” he said.
“It is a missed opportunity to support local government and to protect public services – councils that have performed heroically over the past twelve months in the face of unprecedented pressures.
“It is a missed opportunity to provide additional support for businesses including hospitality and tourism. It is a missed opportunity to take the pressure off local taxpayers by freezing council tax.
“And it is a missed opportunity to help the poorest in society by extending the eligibility of free school meals to all children in homes on universal credit.
“We need to keep money flowing to help those businesses who truly need it, to help with the pressures on health and care services, and to help the most vulnerable in our society.”
Andrew RT Davies MS – the Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd – said they had been calling on Labour ministers to use more of the additional Covid funding allocated by the Treasury last year.
“We’ve been calling on Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay to use the near £6 billion provided by the Conservatives in Covid funding to support Welsh families, workers, and businesses, so this announcement is better late than never,” he said.
“However, Welsh businesses – particularly in the retail, hospitality, and tourism sectors – continue to be ignored and Labour ministers must extend the business rates holiday into next year so we can support Welsh jobs.”
He added: “”The pandemic has devastated the Welsh economy and businesses are crying out for more support from Labour ministers so we can protect Welsh jobs and support families.
“Thousands of small Welsh firms are frantically planning for their survival and an extension to the business rate holiday for the next financial year should be announced immediately.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said that their package of business support was “the most generous anywhere in the UK”.
“We have made more funding available to businesses here than we have received as a result of spending on business support in England,” they said.
“We will be building on this investment in 2021-22 with more than £635m to support the NHS and local councils over the next six months.
“The UK government is yet to confirm whether it will extend non-domestic rate support in England. We have called on them to do so in the budget so we have certainty on the funding available for Wales as a result.
“We are playing our part in ensuring support reaches the most vulnerable when they need it by extending the Covid [Discretionary Assistance Fund] support for a further six months and providing free school meals in school holidays up to Easter 2022.
“We have also called on the UK government to play their part by maintaining the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit and putting it on a permanent basis.”