UK Spending Round announcement – what are the priorities for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney?
Spending Round announcement
In any normal times much of this week would have been spent considering the details of the UK Government’s spending announcement. After a period of uncertainty about the timing of this announcement a decision was clearly made by the UK Government to announce the UK “spending round 2019” with plans for one year, 2020/21, only. This clearly formed part of a wider Tory political strategy around the UK’s relationship with the EU and planning for a General Election. That is clearly the ‘politics’ of the announcement.
But whatever the intention behind the Chancellor’s announcement it means that Wales has seen some reversal of previous Tory spending cuts. The Welsh Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans AM can now bring forwards a more considered approach to help determine spending priorities in Wales. No matter what the UK Tories may say it is for the Welsh Government to propose how the money devolved to Wales is spent, and for the National Assembly to vote on those proposals.
What is the state of the finances?
Well Wales has received an increase in funding in this one year spending plan, though the analysis by the Finance Minister shows the total money is still £300 million lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.
As the UK announcement only covers one year (2020/21) it still leaves a lot of uncertainty about Budget planning in Wales for the medium to long term. An announcement like this would normally cover three years and as Rebecca Evans AM said “It won’t come close to providing a sustainable, long term basis on which to plan, something that our public services desperately need”.
What we are unable to do at this point is to match headline spending announcements by the UK Government on, say health and education, against the detailed spending plans, as the necessary detail is not available beyond 2020/21. The Welsh Government simply cannot make assumptions for future years about money which is not confirmed by the UK Treasury in a comprehensive spending plan.
In Wales the Finance Minister, on behalf of the Welsh Government, will bring forward its plans and publish its draft Budget earlier than thought in order to provide as much certainty as possible to partners and stakeholders.
There will of course be lots of calls, and competing priorities for any extra money. From the consistent campaigning of our local councils for a bigger slice of the cake, the demands for more spending on the frontline in our schools or on apprenticeships and skills training, the needs of the elderly and vulnerable for social care, maintaining investment in our Welsh NHS, the needs to improve our infrastructure inc trains and buses and to respond to the climate emergency, providing the extra finance to improve existing homes and build new housing. Money will be allocated to deal with the consequences of Brexit and seeking to support businesses, and wider society, through whatever lies ahead. As always the Welsh Government will need to decide between many worthy bids for funding.
These are some of the important debates that will take place this Autumn after the Assembly resumes to full business in September and the Assembly Committees start to scrutinise spending plans.
What are the priorities for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney?
The Welsh Budget process deals with the setting of spending priorities for the whole of Wales, but I would be interested in hearing your views on what you see as the priorities for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney?.
Hearing the views of constituents always helps to inform me as the discussions take place in the National Assembly.
If you have views please e-mail me in the usual way at [email protected] and title your email – Spending Priorities