First minister warns of pain to come in Wales

The first minister of Wales has issued a stark warning of painful financial decisions to come ahead of George Osborne’s spending review at the end of next month.

The first minister of Wales has issued a stark warning of painful financial decisions to come ahead of George Osborne’s spending review at the end of next month.

Addressing the Welsh TUC conference yesterday, Carwyn Jones said that the chancellor’s efforts to cut spending by an additional £1.5 billion could result in the Welsh government losing somewhere in the region of £55 million from its current budget.

Reductions to the Welsh block grant, handed down as a result of Westminster’s spending decisions – which amounts to just over £15bn – have been introduced since 2010, and ministers in Cardiff say that its budget is £1.4bn lower in real terms compared to previously planned for.

Speaking to delegates, Jones said:

“The Welsh government has repeatedly made clear that we believe the cuts being imposed on us by the Tories in London are being made too far and too fast.

“Indeed, this is a view shared by the TUC.

“However, it is now clear that the pain is far from over.

“When the chancellor delivers his Spending Review next month, at best we can expect more of the same. At worst, it will mean even more severe cuts to the Welsh government’s budget.

“The Tory/Lib coalition have already imposed a £1bn cut in real terms on the Welsh government budget between 2010-11 and 2014-15. If you include capital expenditure, it equates to a cut of £1.4bn in real terms – a whopping a 9 per cent of our overall budget.”

Warning of touch spending decisions to come, the first minister continued:

“We will need to prioritise funding to pay for those public services which we all rely on – health, education and job creation. All other areas of spending – and I mean all other areas – will need to be looked very carefully indeed.

“My cabinet has already begun discussions on where resources need to be prioritised, and it is clear, even at this stage, that the process will very difficult and that it won’t be without some pain.

“We will not be able to continue financing all the programmes and projects which have received funding in the past. We have to do this if we are to offer any kind of protection to those services and priorities I have just mentioned.

“As a Welsh Labour government, I can promise you though that we will prioritise those services which are important to our people – not for us the slash and burn agenda of the Tories.

“Difficult decisions by this Welsh Labour government will be steeped in the principles of social justice and equality of opportunity – not leaving the most vulnerable in society to fend for themselves at a time when they are likely to need help the most.”

His comments came as Local government minister Lesley Griffiths warned that Welsh local authorities could no longer be spared from the financially difficult decisions to be taken. Speaking in the Assembly, she explained:

“The next UK spending review will further reduce the Welsh government budget. We will not be able to protect local authority budgets as in recent years. So the financial reductions experienced by local government in England signal the future reality for Wales. Authorities need immediate and radical short-term financial and service planning so as to align public services with the lower level of resources which will be available in the future.”

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