Some thoughts on the UK Budget
This week the UK Chancellor will finally deliver a Budget. Unlike Sajid Javid MP this Chancellor may well survive long enough to speak at the dispatch box in the House of Commons and to make the UK Budget Statement. It is much anticipated and long delayed.
So what should we in Wales look for?
Well I agree with our Welsh Labour Government in calling on the new Chancellor to finally end austerity (Tory cuts) and to help deliver the major, overdue investment Wales needs after a decade of broken promises.
A decade of cuts have impacted harshly on so many public services so we need an announcement that helps provide sustained investment in public services in the years ahead and a reversal of regressive welfare reforms. These reforms have been so damaging to communities like Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.
The Chancellor could also rebuild trust by paying back the £200m which was removed from our budget this year by UK Treasury.
My colleague Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans AM has also called on the UK Government to boost investment research and development, which is crucial important to supporting good jobs and the future of our economy.
Flooding and Coronavirus
As the Chancellor makes his final preparations we know this Budget falls while we are dealing with the twin challenges of large scale flooding and Coronavirus.
In many parts of Wales the recent floods have had an unprecedented and devastating impact on Welsh communities. It takes time to count the cost but it seems likely that the cost of the response, recovery and repair will run to hundreds, rather than tens of millions, of pounds. The evidence I have received from Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly County Borough Councils has started to identify the scale of needs.
These pressures have been exacerbated by the UK Government cutting our capital funding by £200m very late in this financial year.
It seems the UK Government has so far indicated that it recognises the disproportionate impact the storms have had on Wales. I therefore expect firm commitments to come from inter-governmental discussions on these issues.
Clarity on future spending plans
Of course other issues continue to be of keen interest. Wednesday’s Budget must provide an unequivocal commitment confirming that Wales will not be a penny worse off as a result of EU exit and that the devolution settlement will be respected.
With less than 12 months until current EU programmes comes to an end, it is vital that the UK Government shares with us in detail its plans for a Shared Prosperity Fund. Further delay would be very damaging.
So this is the opportunity before the UK Chancellor – an end to uncertainty, a foundation to invest in the future and the chance to help meet the significant challenges of today.
We await the UK Budget speech with keen interest.