Where do the Welsh Tories stand on the deficit?

Ed Jacobs reports on the Welsh Tory tactic of claiming to support the cuts, whilst simultaneously calling for extra spending.

Welsh Labour have raised questions over where shadow economy minister Darren Millar really stands on the deficit following a series of contradictory remarks and press statements on spending and spending cuts. Speaking to the Tory spring conference in Cardiff earlier this year, Millar gave every indication of a man calling on the party faithful to support the spending cuts being imposed on Wales by the coalition in Westminster.

He argued:

“It’s time for a fresh and coherent approach to economic policy in Wales – and that’s just what we Welsh Conservatives have to offer.

“We would work with, not against, the UK government to get our economy back on track.”

However, analysis of the content of his press releases over the past year reveals £700 million worth of extra spending commitments and calls made by Millar for his Clwyd West seat alone.

Welsh Labour seized on the figures, explaining:

“Taken together, he’s called for spending totalling almost £1bn – without the power to deliver a single penny of it.

“He’s called for extra spending on schools, medical centres, stopping charges for credit card payments by councils, the chance to freeze council tax, the restoration of a pier, snow clearing, improved train services, business rate relief, preventing a library closure, creating a national park, licensing canoeists, improved road maintenance, better flood defences, pedestrian improvements and road widening and re-routing.

“Meanwhile, his Tory colleagues have been savagely cutting public spending, hitting Welsh families and the services we all rely on.”

Millar’s Labour opponent in Clwyd West seat, Crispin Jones, said:

“We are losing more than 200 police officers and staff in north Wales because of Tory cuts. Tory candidates like Darren Millar should come clean about the impact of the cuts in their own constituencies – cuts which are hitting Welsh families and threatening to devastate our communities.

“Darren Millar is trying to avoid responsibility for these cuts by making empty spending commitments. People in Clwyd West shouldn’t let the Tories hoodwink them – Tory cuts are damaging our local services and are bad for Wales.”

Labour have now published a leaflet in the constituency, mocking Millar up as a baby, under the headline:

“Infantile spending pledges from a billion dollar baby. It’s about time Tory Darren Millar just grew up.”

Continuing with the theme, Millar argued:

“Labour have clearly thrown their toys out of the pram. I’m delighted the Labour Party have been able to highlight some of the campaigning.”

Whilst the imagery of toys being thrown out of prams and billion dollar babies are a colourful reminder of the on-going election campaign in Wales, the question remains how a Conservative who aspires to lead the Welsh economy can claim to support the cuts imposed by Westminster on the one hand, whilst simultaneously calling for extra spending for his constituency, which he knows his colleagues in London have made impossible to deliver.

The developments come as new polling for ITV Wales has Labour stretching its lead to 49% with the Conservatives second on 20%, Plaid Cymru third on 17% and the Lib Dems a distant fourth on 8%.

Calculating the results, Denis Balsom, editor of the Wales Year Book, has suggested that, if repeated in the election, the polling would hand Welsh Labour 31 seats, a majority of one, which although slim, would be a significant achievement given the existence of an electoral system which makes it incredibly difficult for any one party to secure a majority outright.

Balsom’s analysis would also see the Conservatives on 13 seats, Plaid Cymru on 11 and the Lib Dems winning just five seats in the new Senedd.

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