I got my opportunity to respond to this year’s Budget this week. In my speech I addressed my deep concerns about the continued austerity under the UK Government and their utter failure to support the people and businesses of North Wales.
It is clear that this was a Budget that included more harm than help for people in work. It continued to cut away at our police, justice and international trade budgets and did nothing of value to unpick the hurt inflicted by Universal Credit cuts.
This was a sticking plaster Budget. It did nothing to address the long-term problems created by eight long years of enforced austerity; an austerity that was driven only by ideology and not by facts.
The funding for the North Wales Growth Deal is welcome, but the devil is in the detail. Local councils, businesses, Assembly Members and MPs have worked hard to get support from UK Government. After over three years the £120m is welcome, but still under performs on expectations.
What we needed in this Budget was investment in schools, local government and our public services. What we got was an expert exercise in kicking the can down the road. On police we were told that the Home Secretary will investigate police funding later in the year. On schools, the Government thinks that £10,000 per primary school will be enough. This is a derisible sum that will do nothing to reverse the catastrophic impact of the UK Government’s funding for local government. It is important to note that this funding is for England only and will translate into Barnet Formula funding for the Welsh Government.
There was talk about tax reliefs for those paying Capital Gains tax, but there was no talk of how we redress the imbalance within society or how we eradicate child poverty. Delyn has suffered at the hands of this UK Government. Be it Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, and their utter failure on unemployment for North East Wales.
We could have had a Budget that invested in renewable energy and high-tech jobs. It could have been a Budget that supported people in work against the cost of living. We should have seen a Budget that supported small and medium sized businesses grow and invest in their towns. This was a missed opportunity which will place further pressures on people trying to do the right thing.
My patience is wearing thin with the promises of the North Wales Growth Deal being put in place by this Government. I was told in December last year that everything would be in place by April and we are yet to see any action.
That’s why I wanted to make it easy for the minister. I asked him the simple question when will we see the first spade hit the soil in North Wales on any project, any spade anywhere.
Local authorities in North Wales are ready and raring to go. It is the Government who is dragging their feet on investment in our communities.
The North Wales Growth Deal is gaining momentum and when it arrives it will deliver more powers locally and vital investment. It cannot come soon enough.
But a growth deal in isolation will be limited. That is why it needs to be comprehensive and linked to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative. I was disappointed that the minister responsible could not give any direct assurances that this is being done. I will be questioning the UK Government further to ensure that it is.