Budget 2014: Devolved governments call on the chancellor to act

Ahead of today’s budget, the Welsh government has called on the chancellor to encourage and support investment in vital infrastructure projects.

Ahead of today’s budget, the Welsh government has called on the chancellor to encourage and support investment in vital infrastructure projects.

Whilst welcoming investment made in projects over previous budgets, the Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt has observed that the Welsh government’s capital budget has been “cut by 31 per cent between 2009-10 and 2015-16”.

Setting out how more could be done on infrastructure, she urged the UK government to increase capital investment to “ensure we can deliver the sustained economic growth that both Wales and the UK needs”. However she added that this can not be at the cost of further cuts to public services

“Wednesday’s Budget is an opportunity for the UK government to stimulate the economy and help get things moving. I hope they take this opportunity and give us what we need to continue to strengthen the Welsh economy,” she said.

North of the border, Scotland’s finance secretary John Swinney is using the final Budget before September’s independence referendum to warn George Osborne that this is his “last chance to seriously tackle inequality and turn away from a budget of continued cuts and austerity before Scotland votes in the referendum”.

Seeking to make a contrast between what an independent Scotland could achieve outside of the UK, he continued:

“Scotland is a wealthy country and we can more than afford to be independent. In each of the last 33 years Scotland has paid more in tax per head than the UK and in the last five years Scotland would be £1600 per head better off than the UK – money that could have been invested in the economy, in public services and reducing debts.

“Instead under Westminster we have seen capital spending cut by almost 27 per cent and our overall discretionary spending power cut by 11 per cent in real terms over the five years to 2015-16.

“We know that we are not even halfway through the cuts planned by Westminster, and that the Chancellor plans a further £12bn of cuts to welfare after the next election. It is also clear that if Scotland sticks with the UK system we could see the scrapping of the Barnett Formula which could result in a further £4bn cut specifically from Scotland’s public services.

“In just under six months’ time the people of Scotland will vote to decide whether budget decisions should continue to be made by Westminster governments Scotland didn’t elect or whether decisions about spending, taxes and public services in Scotland would be better made by the people and parliament of Scotland. Following a vote for independence we can end Westminster’s austerity agenda, tackle the economic challenges Scotland faces and build a fairer more prosperous country.”

In Northern Ireland meanwhile, the budget comes under the shadow of a grim forecast over the austerity to come from finance minister Simon Hamilton.

Speaking last week to the annual dinner of the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, the minister noted that in real terms the Stormont government will have £300m less to spend in 2015/16 than it will in the incoming financial year. Somewhat grimly he went on:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the next number of years will eclipse even the last four years of austerity.”

“I don’t like having to issue stark warnings about the future. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I give people the impression that just because the economy is improving, public spending will automatically see the benefit.”

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