Welsh Government taking a risk with new restrictions because Treasury money may be ‘fictional’ says Mark Drakeford
The Welsh Government is taking a risk in spending money on Covid restrictions because new support by the Treasury may be “fictional”, the First Minister has said.
The UK Treasury announced on Sunday that it would give the Welsh Government an additional £270 million to fight the new Omicron variant of the virus.
But it was revealed on Monday that Welsh Government may have to repay the money if the UK Government does not decide to spend similar amounts on restrictions in England.
Mark Drakeford said that while they did have the money for restrictions announced today, they did not have the “financial firepower” to go further and help anyone who might be out of work as a result of the restrictions.
“The UK Government says that they have given us extra £270m. I want to make clear not as simple as that,” he said.
“That money depends on how much is spent on similar services in England. We may get more and we may get less.
“We are proceeding at risk here. Our assessment is that we should step in, use some money, take the risk that the money announced by the UK Government is real rather than fictional to give businesses the confidence that they need.”
He added that he joined “colleagues in Scotland and Northern Ireland” in calling for the Treasury to put in place “protections” for sectors that would be impacted by Covid restrictions after Christmas.
The UK Treasury said on Monday that the Welsh Government would receive an additional £270 million, but if the amount given end up higher than the share of the money Wales would have received anyway, they will have it pay it back.
“If the amount of funding provided up front to each Devolved Administration is more than the Barnett consequentials confirmed at Supplementary Estimates then the difference will be repaid in 2022-23, or over the Spending Review period if necessary,” the Treasury said.
“If the Barnett consequentials are higher than the amount provided up front, the Devolved Administrations will keep the extra funding.”
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak however said that the money gave the devolved governments “the certainty they requested to spend additional funding now rather than waiting for Supplementary Estimates in the new year”.
“Following discussions with the Devolved Administrations, we are now doubling the additional funding available,” he said.
“We will continue to listen to and work with the Devolved Administrations in the face of this serious health crisis to ensure we’re getting the booster to people all over the UK and that people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are supported.”