Wales and Scotland set to publish draft austerity budgets

Over the next fortnight, the devolved bodies are expected to publish their draft budgets against the background of the toughest fiscal environment since the birth of devolution. Last week Left Foot Forward reported on the double whammy being faced by Northern Ireland with health minister Michael McGimpsey warning of “large numbers of redundancies” in the NHS and substantial concerns over the impact of the UK government’s welfare reforms on the most vulnerable.

Over the next fortnight, the devolved bodies are expected to publish their draft budgets against the background of the toughest fiscal environment since the birth of devolution. Last week Left Foot Forward reported on the double whammy being faced by Northern Ireland with health minister Michael McGimpsey warning of “large numbers of redundancies” in the NHS and substantial concerns over the impact of the UK government’s welfare reforms on the most vulnerable.

This weekend, Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones pledged to protect spending on schools and hospitals as part of what he admitted was a “very challenging” budget. Speaking to the Western Mail he explained:

We’ll prioritise schools, skills and hospitals and our universal benefits, and the budget will show that. These are very difficult times. Our capital programme particularly has been very hard hit, but we want to show next week that, in keeping to our priorities, devolution has made a difference and is making a difference to the people of Wales.”

The commitment to prioritise NHS spending, however, comes following a warning by Labour’s coalition partners, Plaid Cymru, over the impact of ringfencing the NHS budget. Speaking last week, the party’s deputy leader, Helen Mary Jones, outlined her concerns that ring fencing the budget for health services:

“… could decimate other budgets such as education, economic development and housing.”

In Scotland, meanwhile, finance secretary John Swinney used an article in Scotland on Sunday to reiterate his warning that:

“That cuts agenda threatens a Scottish economic recovery.”

And ahead of the publication of the Scottish government’s budget for next year, he called for greater pay restraint in the public sector, believing such moves could save £300 million and safeguard 10,000 jobs. Despite such calls however, in an exclusive, the Sunday Hearld reports that whilst pay restraint is being imposed on the public sector, SNP ministers have agreed to spend £250 million hiring consultants and private agency workers.

The development sparked fury from opposition parties and unions alike, with Labour leader Iain Gray declaring:

“These figures are astonishing. The Scottish government is asking for pay restraint across the public sector, but seems to have lost control of its own budget. John Swinney needs to explain why a quarter of a billion pounds is being spent on costly external consultants when nurses and teachers are losing their jobs.

“It just doesn’t make financial sense and I want to see an immediate review to ensure that the taxpayer is getting value for money.”

Elsewhere, following the publication of the Calman Commission report which called for greater tax varying powers for Holyrood, Scottish secretary Michael Moore has suggested that Scotland could be given responsibility for raising about a third of its revenue, around £10 billion.

With the publication of the Scotland Bill due over the next few weeks, Moore explained:

“Next week the Scottish Parliament will start the process of deciding how to spend next year’s budget. But at the moment they don’t have enough say over how that budget is raised. That is a serious weakness that the Scotland Bill will fix.”

3 Responses to “Wales and Scotland set to publish draft austerity budgets”

  1. Fiona

    RT @leftfootfwd: Wales and Scotland set to publish draft austerity budgets: http://bit.ly/bagbWq reports @EdJacobs1985

  2. Wendy Maddox

    RT @leftfootfwd: Wales and Scotland set to publish draft austerity budgets: http://bit.ly/bagbWq reports @EdJacobs1985

  3. A tale of two Budgets | Left Foot Forward

    […] to MSPs in Holyrood, finance secretary John Swinney yesterday confirmed what had long been expected, namely that Scottish public sector workers earning £21,000 or more a year face a pay freeze. In […]

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