Ed Jacobs covers the negotiations over the Welsh budget, passed by Labour with the help of the Lib Dems
Across Cardiff Bay, sighs of relief are likely to have been heard echoing around the halls of the Assembly as Welsh Labour finally saw a budget passed yesterday.
After what was to say the least a testing process, Carwyn Jones will have felt a palpable sense of relief and perhaps vindication that his government has been able to pass a budget without as much tinkering as a minority administration might have expected from the opposition. All this was made possible as a result of the support of Lib Dem AMs.
Outlining the extent to which the government compromised to see its budget passed, following the vote in the Senedd, finance minister Jane Hutt explained:
“Over recent weeks we have worked with opposition parties to see how we can improve our budget proposals and we secured an agreement around our plans with the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
“I was pleased to be able to include in the final budget a new grant – the pupil deprivation grant – which will direct support to children that need it most. With the additional £20 million, we will be able to provide schools with £450 per child eligible for free school meals and I am pleased that 70,000 children across Wales will benefit as a result of this policy.
“The budget that has been agreed today provides stability and opportunity for growth and jobs. This is what the people of Wales expect and deserve and this is what we have delivered.”
For the Liberal Democrats meanwhile, their leader in Wales, Kirsty Williams, was clear in her pleasure at the budget passed, declaring her party’s pride at having been able to secure it’s manifesto commitment to an effective pupil premium.
Yet, despite the co-operation, it is unlikely that either Labour or the Lib Dems will be in the business of wanting to do any further, longer term, deals. As BBC Wales’ Welsh affairs editor, Vaughn Roderick, explains:
“This is an austerity budget. The amount of money Wales has to spend is considerably reduced because of what’s happening at a UK level. What the government has tried to do is to defend services across the board rather than to ring-fence services.
“So Welsh councils, who deliver things like education and social services, will do a bit better than councils in England are doing comparatively. But the Welsh health service, on the other hand won’t do as well.
“What the Welsh government is trying to do is share the pain around rather than inflict maximum pain on particular areas.
“From the point of view of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, nothing is more important than next May’s elections. The reason for that is simply this: the Liberal Democrats are incredibly dependant on their local government base. If they lose a lot of council seats, the Welsh Lib Dems will be in deep trouble for the long term so Labour are going to do nothing to try and help Lib Dems try to save seats.
“The Lib Dems on the other hand, the reason they wanted this deal is because it puts distance between them and the coalition in London. Having had to make a deal over the budget, Labour wants to do no more favours for the Liberal Democrats.”
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