Caution on extra health spending as draft budget 2018-19 approved by AMs



(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Issue

Over the last few weeks, the chairs of the Senedd’s committees have taken evidence on the proposals contained within the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2018-19. The Finance Committee published their report a few days ago (pdf).

Because of a deal between Labour and Plaid Cymru, passing the budget is a formality, but there was one last opportunity for AMs to debate the contents and any last minute changes they would like to see or concerns they wish to raise before the final budget is tabled on 19th December and voted on in January.

Key Points

Because there were so make speakers, I’ve decided to split responses up by party instead of individuals.

Conservatives

  • It’s unclear how spending priorities reflect government policy priorities.
  • Concerned that there’s a single budget line covering multiple schemes like Supporting People and Flying Start, so their funding isn’t guaranteed to be protected.
  • Doesn’t think short-term deals with other parties will deliver a more sustainable economic footing.
  • Is any additional NHS spending simply going to plug budget deficits?
  • Cuts to further education “are not good”.
  • GPs should get more money if the Welsh Government truly want to address health issues in the community instead of hospitals.

Plaid Cymru

  • Plaid secured £210million which will “deliver real improvements to the lives of the people of Wales”.
  • Would like to see more transparency on local government funding in the future and more specific data on tax revenues in Wales.
  • There was too little evidence of the impact additional health funding or the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act was having.
  • The OBR’s forecasts are based on the current trading relationship with the EU and despite being pessimistic don’t take into account the possibility of a “Hard Brexit”. People will be rightly asking, “What was the point of austerity?”
  • Structural problems in the NHS need addressing before it consumes too much of the Welsh budget.

UKIP

  • The health budget has increased at the expense of everything else; he has sympathy with the Finance Secretary for trying to balance the increasing cost of healthcare as people live longer and new, expensive treatments are introduced.
  • We need more “bang-for-buck” on enterprise zones.
  • The high national debt is a result of Labour squandering money between 1997-2010, though he doesn’t absolve the Conservatives of blame.

Labour (Backbenchers)

  • Supports the budget but it’s inadequate for Wales due to the amount of money given by the UK Government; the blame for cuts can’t lie with Labour.
  • We need to reduce hospital demand to keep health budgets under control.
  • Would like to see free school meals and free breakfasts offered outside term time to help low-income families.
  • Surprised there was no reference to social care in the budget.
  • The Welsh Government shouldn’t have to clean up the mess of the UK Government (universal credit), neither should administration of welfare be devolved for the sake of it.

Welsh Government Response

Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

  • The timing is awkward as AMs are discussing a draft budget before there’s an opportunity to decide where any extra funding from the UK Government might go in the final budget.
  • Pessimistic economic forecasts at a UK level have an impact here because they help shape the money available to Wales; the Welsh Government’s own tax forecasts will now be revised accordingly and proposed rates of tax could change in the final budget.
  • The Supporting People scheme will be protected through 2018-19 and 2019-20 as part of the Labour-Plaid agreement.

Vote

  •  
    8
    Shares
  •  
  •  
  • 8
  •  
  •