By Beth Williams | News Editor
The chancellor has promised a £2.5 billion increase to the Welsh government’s budget. This means the treasury will provide a record amount of £18 billion for Welsh public services this year. £120 million of the budget has already been designated to 10 Welsh projects as part of the levelling-up fund.
The funds of the Welsh government will be spent on devolved sectors, such as education and health services. Ministers will decide exactly how the money will be spent in the next couple of months. Commenting on the increase, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said, “an additional £2.5bn per year in Barnett funding means the Welsh government is well-funded to deliver all their devolved responsibilities, while the people in Wales will also benefit from this government’s commitment to levelling-up opportunity and delivering for all parts of the UK.” The budget documents also showed that Wales’ budget will receive an extra £2.9 billion by 2024.
However, ministers in Wales believe that the country does not receive its fair share. As part of the EU, Wales received a further £375 million for its budget yearly. As part of the leave campaign, Wales was promised that the UK government would replace the funds lost. It is still unclear how, or if, this promise will be kept. Welsh finance minister Rebecca Evans said: “While the spending review does give us some medium term financial certainty and some additional investment, it is more than offset by the inflationary and system pressures that we are facing. The budget fails to meet the scale of the challenge that families, public services and the wider economy are still facing as a result of the pandemic.”
There has been criticism that the funding fails to address areas of concern in Wales. Despite Welsh government data identifying that over 300 coal tips are in the high risk category, the budget does not designate any extra funds to secure them. Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds condemned the budget for cutting air passenger duty for UK domestic flights. She said: “shocking to see the UK government is cutting air passenger duty on the eve of COP26. What message does this send to the world about how seriously we take our climate goals?” This will make flying an even cheaper choice.
The budget has also been accused of bias due to the locations of the projects that will benefit from the levelling up fund. The funds will be heading to predominantly Tory voting areas, disregarding Welsh government input. The Conservatives won 14 of 40 seats in Wales at the 2019 General Election but Tory seats will receive over 60% – £73.2m – of the levelling up cash. Discussing the Welsh government’s lack of control in distributing the funds, Finance minister Ms Evans continued: “Devolution is about decisions being taken by those elected by people in Wales, close to the communities they serve who best understand their needs and circumstances, accountable to the Senedd for their decisions. The Welsh Finance Minister will publish their budget for Wales on 20th December.