Assembly concerned about cuts damaging recovery

Reporter:

Helen Davies

WELSH Assembly figures have voiced concerns about funding following the announcement of the first wave of UK spending cuts.

Chancellor George Osborne has revealed the Welsh budget will be cut by £163 million – or £187 million, offset by £24 million of additional spending – equivalent to about one per cent of the total.

But Wales’ Budget Minister, Jane Hutt, said that while the Welsh Assembly Government is committed to helping reduce the UK’s deficit, cutting public expenditure too early could put economic recovery in danger.

And she said the creation of the Wales Efficiency and Innovation Board meant savings were already being made.

She added: “Despite the cuts announced, the Assembly Government will not be rushing into knee-jerk, unplanned reductions in budgets which could damage public services and threaten the recovery.”

Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech made no mention of the Holtham Commission, which investigated the way money is distributed in Wales by a mechanism called the Barnett formula.

Mrs Hutt said the formula was unfair and a new needs-based approach was needed.

She said: “Reform of Barnett will take time. But my immediate concern is to ensure that Wales does not become further disadvantaged.”

Mark Isherwood, Welsh Conservative AM for North Wales, said people should remember that the planned referendum on Welsh Assembly powers will not in itself change the funding formula.

He said: “If people are concerned about the amount of funding we get in North Wales they need to change who they vote into power locally.”

And Sandy Mewies, Welsh Labour AM for Delyn, said all parties should work together on issues such as the scrapping of the Child Trust Fund.

She told the Leader: “This was introduced to give every child the best possible start in life and it is disconcerting to see that the Conservative/Liberal coalition are making Welsh children a frontline target in this first round of cuts.

“In Delyn, the Child Trust Fund has been welcomed by parents with a take up of nearly 75 per cent. They clearly agree it was a chance to give our children a good financial start in life.”

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said the Queen’s Speech reflected the first priority of the Government, “to deal with the deficit and to restore the economy to a firm footing in Wales and the rest of the UK”.

See full story in the Leader

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