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Wales’ toughest budget since devolution?

November 17, 2010

Economy and transport and environment are to be the areas worst-hit by spending cuts announced in today’s draft budget.

But key areas of education, health and universal benefits will be treated less harshly.

Talking of the hardest era since devolution, Budget Minister Jane Hutt revealed the portfolios for economy and transport and environment will see cuts of more than 21 per cent in spending over the next three years.

Health will be treated more leniently but still see real term cuts of around 7.6 per cent over this period.

Education and local government will see similar real term losses.

Universal benefits are being protected, meaning current free prescriptions, bus passes and school transport will remain.

But spending on big infrastructure projects will be slashed, meaning many roads, schools and hospitals planned to be built will either be delayed or cancelled outright.

There have also been pledges to increase spending on social services and education, but these are funded through a Revenue Service Grant (RSG), and local authorities are not obliged to use all of this revenue on the two areas.

Reactions

The Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition have defended the plans as a way of dealing with hasty and excessive cuts made in Westminster, but the budget has attracted much criticism from rival parties.

Welsh Conservatives have criticised real term cuts to the NHS, which they had promised to ring fence.

The Liberal Democrats attacked it as a “lost opportunity”, claiming more savings could be made in the NHS and areas such as transport should be saved to drive the economy.

The draft budget report can be found here.

Dave Baxter

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