By Sam Portillo | News Editor
The UK Treasury has made an additional £650m available to the Welsh Government, just before it releases its annual budget plan for 2021-22.
Worth over half a billion pounds to the Welsh economy, the package brings the total funding transferred from Westminster to Cardiff Bay since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to £5.85bn.
The devolved administration will be able to carry over any unspent funds into the next financial year, beginning in April. Unless coronavirus infection rates demand a rescheduling, voters in Wales will head to the polls in May to elect a new government – either giving Welsh Labour another term, or electing an alternative.
A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said that the funding came at the “eleventh hour”, a matter of days before it released its spending plans for the upcoming financial year. A draft document published this month sets out £9.2bn for health and social services, £6.0bn on housing and local government, and £2.7bn on education.
Secretary for Wales Simon Hart MP emphasised that the extra funding from the Treasury came in addition to other UK Government support packages, such as Eat Out to Help Out and loans to businesses.
“It should be noted that this is our Barnett share of funding allocated to tackle the pandemic in England,” he added.
The Barnett formula allocates public spending across the UK according to the population size and scale of devolution in each region. Research from 2012 estimated that the current system short-changes Wales by £300m each year. Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of “wilful misrepresentation” after he allegedly announced the already-confirmed £650m as new money.
Business closures and health measures compelled by coronavirus took the UK’s borrowing to levels not reached since the 1960s – 99 percent of gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services in the economy.
In a recent report, the Senedd Finance Committee outlined concerns about the scale of the crisis, emphasising that the current state of public and mental health, education, and the job market, in particular, need extensive spending to make a full recovery. It came after Director for Public Health for Cwm Taf Morgannwg Kelechi Nnoaham claimed that the region’s disproportionate COVID death rate is “fundamentally about poverty and health inequalities”.
Rishi Sunak will announce the national budget for the year on 3rd March in the House of Commons, before facing questions from Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer.