Senedd Sketch: UK Government budget ‘prioritised petrol and potholes over people and pain’
Welsh Government gets a “whopping great uplift of a £1 million in capital spend for the whole of Wales,” as a result to last week’s UK Government Spring Budget, Senedd Members were told today (21 March).
These were the words of Huw Irranca-Davies MS, during First Minister’s Questions.
The Welsh Labour MS for Ogmore wanted to know what Mr Drakeford’s assessment was of the implications for Wales of the recent budget.
Mr Drakeford replied: “The budget provided no extra funding for health, social services or public sector pay and bare minimum additional support for people and businesses.
“It prioritises petrol and potholes over people and pain. The dismal decade of Tory Government ends at it began with comprehensive neglect of the needs of Wales.”
When Welsh Tory Leader Andrew RT Davies doesn’t like what he’s being told, he adopts the persona of a small child having a tantrum, and starts to heckle, loudly.
Mr Irranca-Davies, shouting somewhat in order to be heard over the din, said: “It takes a few days for the dust to settle around the magic of the budget statement of the despatch box.
“We now know that we’ll have for the year ahead the weakest position of all G7 nation.”
Just in case Mr RT Davies still doesn’t get it – the G7 is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union.
Mr Irranca-Davies said: “We will have the highest fall in the standard of living since records began RT Davies – your government.
“In real terms we are £900 million down on what was set out in the 2021 spending review.
“To top it all they’ve given us the whopping great uplift of £1 million in capital spend.
“I was standing on the side of an Astro turf pitch with Sarah Murphy MS last night where a £1/4 million had been spent on that one pitch.
“We have £1 million to spend for the whole of Wales,” said Mr Irranca-Davies before turning to the heckling Tory, to say: “Thank you very much indeed!”
Mr Irranca-Davies then asked whether the First Minister agreed that this is the worst budget settlement for Wales they had ever seen?
To the fading sound of MSs slapping their desks in agreement, Mr Drakeford said:
“I have been involved in 23 years of UK Government budgets and have never seen a worse deal for Wales than we saw last week.
“And as for that £1 million, it is derisory; it is absolutely derisory.”
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives wanted Welsh Government to fine-tune its childcare policy to include what the UK Chancellor promised to do in England.
Mr RT Davies said the UK Government intends to offer free childcare, “from nine months to two years old” and he wanted a commitment that the same would happen in Wales.
Now, those who follow Mr Davies on twitter tell me he likes to read The Sun and that he sometimes tweets pictures of himself doing just that.
It’s unlikely that the tabloid – widely known as The Scum in Liverpool for its Hillsborough disaster coverage – would have carried a thorough analysis of last week’s budget.
And therein lies the problem, because Mr RT Davies seemed to genuinely think it was a budget to behold.
Only for Mr Drakeford to put him straight by saying: “What we see is an attempt in England to catch up with services that are already available here in Wales.
“It is quite certainly not the other way around, but promises – the aspirations we might say – that the Chancellor set out, all of them carefully calibrated to make sure they land the other side of a General Election.”
After a hearty laugh from the Trefnydd Lesley Griffiths, who always sits next to the First Minister, Mr Drakeford continued:
“For 3 and 4-year-olds, here in Wales, families get 30 hours of free child care for 48 weeks of the year.
“In England that’s 38 weeks a year – 10 weeks fewer in England that you get in Wales.”
He continued to offer more figures around free childcare, some of which have been extended as part of the cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
“This is a devolved Wales where we make our own decisions,” said Mr Drakeford.
And with a flick of his left hand, the First Minister turned the page of his file signalling that his patience was wearing thin.
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