(Title Image: BBC Wales)
Yesterday, AMs discussed and voted on the final budget for the 2018-19 financial year.
Key differences between the Draft & Final budgets
- No local authority will see their budget cut by more than 0.5% (previously 1%).
- The amount of savings/assets people can keep before they’re charged for residential care will rise from £30,000 to £40,000.
- An additional £10million has been provided to HEFCW to manage a cap on university tuition fees at £9,000 a year.
- An additional £100million has been provided for health, particularly integrating health & social care and developing primary care clusters.
- An additional £60million over the next two years for local authorities, plus £5.6million for them to deal with air pollution.
- An additional £10million to tackle youth homelessness.
- A “Brexit Transition Fund” with an initial £10million.
- The starting threshold for Land Transaction Tax (Welsh stamp duty) has been raised from £150,000 to £180,000 (see table below for the new rates).
Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West), thanked AMs for their scrutiny and said the new budget processes put in place for this year had been successful. He took a swing at the UK Government by saying the UK economy had been damaged by austerity, with growth forecasts revised downwards.
If the Welsh budget had remained the same (in real terms) as it was a decade ago Wales would have an additional £1.1billion, but if budgets were maintained at the same pace as economic growth Wales would have between £3-4billion extra.
Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth), said the budget fell short of addressing fundamental economic challenges. He criticised the lack of transparency, saying that the links between the Programme for Government and the budget weren’t strong enough, particularly in terms of health.
Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) talked up Plaid’s budget agreement but accepted parts where there wasn’t agreement and that’s why Plaid will abstain. The budget agreement sends a message “to all parts of Wales that we are a one-nation Wales” by securing local investments.
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales) hoped tax-varying powers will lead to a more responsible government, but there was an element of “unreality” by the Finance Secretary talking about austerity when government spending has doubled over the last 7 years with the UK national debt hitting £2 trillion.