Extra UK budget cash for Wales “barely takes us back to 10 years ago”

(Title Image: pymnts.com)

Today was also a big day for public finances with the 2020 UK budget being announced. This afternoon’s questions to Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), provided an opportunity for the Minister to give her initial reaction to it.

Business rates “won’t be reformed for the sake of it”

The Welsh Government recently requested the power to create a land value tax in Wales. With the UK Government announcing a review of business rates, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) wondered if the Welsh Government would follow suit?

The Minister told the Senedd that a document looking at the implications of a land value tax would be published “soon”. However, on business rates she was a bit cagey.

“….business rates (are) not something you should reform just for the sake of it. We need to be sure that any reforms are made in a way which meets our Welsh Government priorities more widely, and I have to say I was really pleased by the announcement today that the UK Government has finally caught up now, and that half of businesses in England will no longer be paying business rates. But, of course, we’ve had that situation in Wales for a very long time.”
– Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans

Extra UK budget cash for Wales “barely takes us back to 10 years ago”

Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth) listed some of the main commitments to Wales in the UK budget, including changes to VAT liability for S4C and an extra £360million for the Welsh Government generally. With austerity coming to an end, would the Welsh Government also consider matching UK Government support for businesses potentially affected by coronavirus from any additional funding coming their way?

The Minister said austerity was far from over:

“If you look at the documentation that supports the UK Government’s budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) paints a pretty gloomy picture of prospects, even before taking into account COVID-19….At no point in this Parliament does the OBR suggest that growth will even reach 2%, which is poor by historic terms. So I don’t think that we can say austerity is over. And even with the additional funding that comes to Welsh Government today….it barely takes us back to where we were 10 years ago.”
– Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans

The Minister was hoping to see movement on air passenger duty devolution and the request for vacant land tax powers, but they were noticeably absent.

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