30 November to 5 December
The bill giving the Assembly tax powers has completed its passage through Parliament. Although there is a small matter of a referendum to be won if Wales is to have power to vary income tax rates, although the so-called “lockstep” proposal ensuring all income tax bands change by the same amount was being dropped. Now the National Assembly for Wales will be able to set separate Welsh rates of income tax for each band. Power over landfill taxes, stamp duty and aggregates levy will come the Assembly’s way in 2018 but income tax is unlikely to come anytime soon. Meanwhile a Welsh Treasury is being established, it’s uncertain whether the red box for Welsh budget day has been purchased yet.
Planes, trains and automobiles, no not a rerun of the film over Christmas but the Welsh Governments plans for transport over the next thirty years. Their short term plans include improvements to the A55, the A40 in Pembrokeshire, and north-south rail journey times No Japanese bullet train to connect North with South unless of course the public demands it, for the plans are open to public consultation until next March.
The changing face of political campaigning demonstrated by Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru. She hosted a Facebook question and answer session. Apparently she received over a hundred of questions. Far better this than an irritating knock on the door in the middle of Corrie by the party canvasser.
Just like Christmas the figures on the gross value added to the economy of activites in the UK and just as regularly Wales is still the worst performing part of the UK in terms of money generated by its economy. The figures show Wales had the UK’s lowest GVA per head at £16,893 in 2013 while London had the highest at £40,215. For more analysis see http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/12/growing-but-still-way-behind/
Unlike Wales moves are afoot by the UK government to allow the Scottish government to issue bonds. The move should allow the Scottish government to fund borrowing through bonds from April of next year. Legislation will be introduced by the Treasury, which is expected to lead to the Scotland Office laying an amendment order before Christmas. It all stems from the Scotland Act of 2012, which gave ministers at Holyrood the power to borrow up to a total of £2.2bn from April 2015 for investment. The Act already permitted borrowing from the National Loans Fund and commercial loans, with bonds set to become a third option for reaching the £2.2bn limit if required. Scotland today, Wales in about a century.
Northern Ireland ministers have been pushing hard for more cash to combat the austerity agenda of the Westminster government. Cameron spent two days in the province to try to reach a deal on this and other difficult issues in the province. Both he and the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny left without a deal in place, but they said much progress had been made and local politicians could now solve the remaining issues. Cameron says he’s left “almost £1bn of spending power for the coming years” if agreement could be reached. But Sinn Féin’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said there was no “new money,” said deputy first minister Martin McGuinness. Two politicians with very different views of the world, strange that eh.
In order to win back trust in his party’s economic competency Ed Miliband has set out his party’s plans to reduce the deficit. Dealing with the public finances will be an “essential test” of Labour’s credibility, the party leader said. He argued boosting wages and taxing the better off, in addition to budget cuts in most areas, could contribute to eliminating the deficit by 2020. So where is Miliband’s axe to fall. Well, stopping the winter fuel allowance for “the wealthiest pensioners”; capping child benefit rises at 1%; scrapping police commissioners; selling off “unwanted government assets”.and Labour would make savings of £500m in local government. Will the punters vote Labour because their cuts are a little bit more kindly than those of the Tories? Hmmm
For Wales poll see http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/12/weak-labour-still-make-gains/
Ashcroft Con 30%(+1) Lab 31%(+1) LD 8%(-1) UKIP 19% (+4) Green 4% (-3)
Populus Con 33% Lab 36% LD 8% UKIP 15% Green 4%
YouGov/Sun Con 34% Lab 33% LD 6% UKIP 15% Green 6%
YouGov/Sunday Times Con 32% Lab 32% LD 6% UKIP 17% Green 7%