Spending on public services in the UK is coming under increased pressure, with budgets facing a possible further squeeze from next year.
Welsh families, businesses and politicians have been counting the cost of today's Budget, as they look to balance their own books.
A new task group will meet for the first time today to try and stop the decline of Cardiff Airport.
The Shadow Welsh Secretary, Owen Smith, has attacked the Chancellor both for his overall economic strategy and for the specific consequences for Wales of today's Budget.
The Chancellor could have introduced a package of measures to stimulate our economy: cuts to VAT and National Insurance, for example, and increased spending on house building and other infrastructural projects that would increase economic activity and boost tax receipts. And today’s Budget, in which the Chancellor said he was going to ‘level with’ Britain, acknowledges as much by adopting a version of Labour’s plan on National Insurance and by increasing the spending on infrastructure too.
But look at the fine print and what do you see: none of these things come in this year and most, like the elusive extra £3 billion on infrastructure, only due to appear in 2015 – when the Tories may well be out on their ear. And the same Osborne hallmarks of ‘jam tomorrow’ and sleight of hand are apparent in the treatment of the budget for of National Assembly.
– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP
David Jones announced that Wales would get an extra £161 million to spend on infrastructure – but we all remember that this is just putting back some of the £500 million cut in capital spending that was made in 2010 budget and even in the terms of this Budget it’s not quite as simple as the Welsh Secretary would have us believe, because a further £59m is cut out of the Welsh Government’s revenue funding, forcing hard decisions about cuts to services on which we all rely.
Plaid Cymru Finance Spokesman Jonathan Edwards says the economic figures contained within the budget suggest a bleak future for Wales.
Wales Office minister Baroness Randerson tells Political Editor Adrian Masters that the budget was 'as good as we could possibly have hoped for' for Wales both in terms of the amount of money the Welsh Government gets to spend and in terms of other measures for families.
Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the Chancellor's budget gives to Wales with one hand and takes away with the other.
The Resolution Foundation, an independent research and policy organisation, analysed the Chancellor's 2013 Budget:
- Personal tax allowances: Small gains for the great majority of tax payers excluding the very highest and lowest earners. However three-quarters of the £1 billion goes to households in the top half.
- Fuel duty: The freeze on fuel duty will disproportionately benefit lower and modest income families.
- Childcare: Welcome increase in generosity of childcare support through Universal Credit but only a minority of working low-income families with children will benefit.
- Housing: Focus on new supply to be welcomed but focus on home ownership is unlikely to benefit those on low and modest incomes.
- Wages: OBR forecasts show wages have dipped further than previously realised. For the median worker, the downturn has become even more severe.
The Wales Office has released further details of the changes to the capital and revenue budgets that the Welsh Government will have to spend in 2013/14 and the projected figures for 2014/15, which are subject to further change in next year's Budget.
Capital spending will rise by £161 million.
- 2013/14: £63 million increase
- 2014/15: £98 million increase
The figure released earlier, of an extra £104 million over two years, includes revenue spending, which accounts for the vast majority of the Welsh Government's budget. It will be cut by £59 million.
- 2013/14: £27 million decrease
- 2014/15: £32 million decrease
The Wales Office points out that this is a 0.2% cut, compared to a 1% cut for most UK government departments. The Welsh Government argues that cuts announced by the Chancellor last autumn also have to be taken into account, leading to a bigger total drop in revenue spending.
- 2013/14: £32 million decrease
- 2014/15: £81 million decrease
The Welsh Conservatives have called on the Welsh Government to make effective use of an extra £161 million in capital spending over the next two years.
As a result of these spending decisions the Welsh Government will benefit from an additional 161 million pounds of capital spending power – bringing the total to 858 million over the spending review period. Detailed discussions are now required on how to put this new money to best use.
– Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies AM
This is a Budget targeted at growth that helps and supports communities across Wales. From fuel duty to income tax, from childcare to capital spending; this is extremely welcome news that provides a stark contrast to Welsh Labour’s tired policies and casino economics.The UK Government’s mortgage announcement will help those working hard to get on the property ladder, while its national insurance plans are a welcome difference to Labour’s flawed plans to tax jobs.
Meanwhile Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, has reacted to the Chancellor’s Budget by saying it will bring little benefit to the Welsh economy and is a clear indication that Treasury policies are failing Wales.
– Plaid Cymru Treasury Spokesman Jonathan Edwards MP
It is disappointing that the Chancellor failed to adopt policies advocated by Plaid Cymru such as reversing the tax cut for those earning over £3,000 a week and scrapping the Trident renewal that is set to cost £100 billion. He also failed to make progress on introducing a Financial Transaction (Robin Hood) Tax that would raise £20 billion a year and help curb the speculative behaviour in the financial sector which caused the crash in the first place. The decision to scrap the stamp duty on shares trading is a regressive move as it’s the only thing in the UK currently resembling this tax.
Mr Edwards welcomed the news on childcare support though it won't help those on tax or universal credit. He said that left those on the lowest incomes facing the greatest barriers to meaningful work. He also welcomed the scrapping of the rise in fuel costs and the £10,000 income tax threshold.
Robert Lloyd Griffiths from the Institute of Directors in Wales has welcomed the Chancellor's Budget announcement.
He said "the reduction of corporation tax to 20 percent will be really welcomed across businesses."
The Welsh Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, has responded to the Budget. She says the extra £161 million for Welsh Government capital projects has come at a high price, with cuts in the main revenue budget in both 2013/14 and 2014/15.
This is a disappointing Budget for Wales. We have repeatedly called on the UK Government to boost infrastructure investment to stimulate the economy. In response they have reduced our revenue budget - these revenue cuts are on top of those in last year's Autumn Statement. In total we will now have to find savings of £32 m in 2013/14 and £81 m in 2014/15. The price for additional capital investment is high and will be paid for by cuts to our revenue for the next two years. This is a real blow and will place our crucial public services under further pressure.
The UK Government has given us back some capital allocations, which we welcome. However there are many strings attached - the capital can only be used for loans or equity investment and a proportion will have to be repaid. Although we are committed to boosting the housing sector in Wales, this falls far short of what we called for and urgently require. Despite the recent loss of triple A status, borrowing costs remain very low and we would like to see the UK Government take advantage of this to support capital projects.
– Finance Minister Jane Hutt AM
We welcome the acknowledgement in the Budget of the need for funding improvements to the M4 in South Wales, the intergovernmental talks on this need to be concluded quickly - I look forward to reaching agreement on this major infrastructure project.
At a time when we are trying to support the Welsh economy and boost growth, this level of cuts is unacceptable. We want to see the Welsh economy returned to full strength, today’s Budget will not make that task easier ."
Alex Bevan, from the Trades Union Congress in Wales, described the Budget as "disappointing but not surprising" and "another missed opportunity" to rescue "a lost decade."