Labour and the Liberal Democrats have signed a two-year deal to pass the Welsh government budget. This will see the government get its way over financial matters up until the Assembly elections in May 2016.
Details of the full £15.1bn budget, which is down from this year’s £15.3bn sees an extra £425m over two years going to bridge the gap in the health budget. But this increase will mean cuts in other areas, indeed some budgets have already being cut during the cause of the current year. Local government, the economy, as well as the Communities programme all experience substantial cuts.
The details are as follows:
An additional £225m next year to the Welsh NHS responding to the Nuffield Challenge;
Protecting schools funding by 1% above changes to the Welsh budget overall, meaning an additional £106m will have been provided to schools over this Spending Review period;
Allocating an additional £12m to continue the Schools Challenge Cymru for next year;
A two year agreement with the Welsh Liberal Democrats which will see the Pupil Deprivation Grant (PDG) rise from £918 to £1,050 in 2015-16 and then again to £1,150 in 2016-17 and extending the PDG to nursery aged children in both years; and
A new Youth Concessionary Fares scheme for 16-17 year olds starting in September 2015
Continued investment in a range of employment programmes, including funding through Jobs Growth Wales to create 16,000 job opportunities by March 2016.
Continuing our investment in our road and rail networks with £245m in 2015-16.
Protecting funding for Flying Start, doubling the number of children benefitting to 36,000;
Maintaining funding to provide an additional 500 community support officers;
Maintaining support for Universal Benefits – free school breakfasts and school milk, free prescriptions, free swimming and concessionary fares;
As part of the Draft Budget, the Minister also announced over £100m of Capital investments in support of the Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan – including £11m for immediate investment.
£37m over this year and next to provide further investment in housing – expanding the Affordable Housing Land Scheme, Houses into Homes Scheme, Home Improvement Loans and the Town Centre Loans Scheme;
Allocating £2m towards the Gypsy and Traveller Sites Programme;
Investing £5m in the first phase of the Green Growth Wales Scheme; and
As part of the Budget Agreement with the Welsh Liberal Democrats, this includes £40m of investment in transport infrastructure to enable early delivery of key infrastructure assets. This includes an additional £30m to ensure the Cardiff Eastern Bay Link Road starts construction next year.
The Conservatives talked about the increase health budget “as too little, too late.” Plaid Cymru wanted more details of where the cuts had fallen. Their spokesperson Alun Ffred Jones pointed out that local council budgets had again being cut as had the supporting people budget.
The cuts have hit some sectors particularly hard. Further education see a hit of nearly £30 million pounds. End of life care in the hospices of Wales sees a cut of £5m. Health protection and Immunisation sees nearly a £3m fall in its budget. Local Government is £83 million down, this on top of last years swinging cuts to council budgets. The various initiatives to tackle poverty and deprivation and support of vulnerable people receive the axe, there is an overall budget reduction of over £11 million to the department’s budget.
Anyone hoping for improvement any time soon should be aware that both the main Westminster parties are talking about more austerity. In other words more cuts to our already hard pressed services here in Wales are on the way. Public services are on a downward spiral.