Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has pulled her party out of budget talks with the Welsh Government in protest at the decision to spend £1 billion on a new motorway around Newport. She claimed it was a reckless and undemocratic decision, arguing that cheaper and more effective solutions to the traffic jams on the existing M4 would have left more money to be spent in other parts of Wales.
The Welsh Government does not have a majority in the Senedd and needs the support of at least one other party to get its budget passed. In the past, it has reached a deal with Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats or both. Plaid and the Welsh Lib Dems has reached an agreement to negotiate jointly in future.
This is a stand that Plaid Cymru has been compelled to make. The Welsh Government acted with complete disregard for the democratic institution when it took this decision without proper scrutiny and with no business case.
Plaid Cymru wants the M4 congestion problem resolved now and resolved properly. There is an option to do this at a more reasonable cost giving us the same answer and that is why Plaid Cymru in government turned down this more expensive and environmentally damaging option.
In budget negotiations, we would have worked hard to ensure the best value for money for the Welsh taxpayer, and yet the Welsh Government has blown a billion pounds on this extravagant project when there are more efficient and more cost-effective alternatives.
The Welsh Government's spending plans have been criticised for not fulfilling its own priorities. A report by a cross-party group of Assembly Members says that, while the Welsh Government described its draft budget as a 'budget for jobs', in fact more spending was being targetted at health services.
Members of the Labour party which forms the Welsh Government are amongst the members of the Finance Committee which has published the report. It calls for government priorities to be 'more clearly reflected and highlighted in budget proposals.' The Committee's Chair, Jocelyn Davies, says:
The draft budget put forward by the Welsh Government appears at odds with its own stated priority of ‘jobs and growth.'
The Committee recognises the reasoning for such a decision by the Finance Minister but believes that a government’s priorities and budgets should be more closely aligned.
We are also concerned at the lack of financial information about laws which have already been passed or which will be coming forward over the next year.
The Committee is aware that more and more legislation is on the horizon and we believe it is critical that the Welsh Government makes every effort to budget for the implementation of these laws.
– Jocelyn Davies AM, Chair of the Finance Committee
Neither of the parties will say exactly what deal they'll try to reach with the Welsh Government but say there's more that they agree on than disagree. Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams says:
Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently said that we will not support a budget that does not make progress towards closing the funding gap with England – starting with the poorest children who need the help the most. Nor will we vote for a budget that neglects the need to tackle unemployment and boost the economy by incentivising employers to take on new trainees. The growing crisis within our NHS is an issue that we will also want to deal with.
– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader