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Spring Budget 2017: What does it mean for Wales?

Chancellor Philip Hammond has revealed what is in the iconic red box. Photo: PA

The Chancellor has unveiled his first Budget, saying it is the foundation for a "stronger, fairer, more global Britain."

It includes an extra £200 million for the Welsh Government over four years - that's £150m over three years, plus £50m capital over four years, as result of business rates, skills and social care spending in England.

But Wales Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said it is "clear austerity is not over" and criticised what he says is a lack of clarity in the Budget on the future of finances in Wales.

Here are some of the other key points from the Budget for Wales:

Unemployment

Philip Hammond began by highlighting unemployment in Wales, which he said has fallen fastest here.

National Insurance

Higher-paid self employed workers will pay an average of 60p a week more in National Insurance contributions as part of changes announced by the Chancellor, which he said would raise an extra £145 million by 2021-22.

Business rates and social care

The Chancellor made two big announcements in the Budget regarding business rates and social care in England.

Philip Hammond announced that those hit by business rate increases in England are to get extra help, including a £300 million discretionary fund to help the worst hit and a £1,000 discount for most pubs.

The Welsh Government recently announced its own £20m scheme, but it will be up to them to decide whether to offer more help to businesses here.

An extra £2 billion will be spent on social care in England over the next three years to help councils and the NHS, it was also announced.

There are now calls for the Welsh Government to spend its additional £200 million on similar measures.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford says it is up to the Welsh Government to decide how any extra money is spent.

Wales projects

There was no firm announcement on planned schemes including the Swansea Bay City Region deal, the tidal lagoon project or electrification.

A UK Government spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State for Wales has spoken to the Swansea Bay City Deal team to reinforce his commitment to signing a deal as soon as possible. Challenges remain but the Secretary of State wants to ensure that a good city deal can become a great deal."

But Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said it is "disappointing" that the UK Government did not use the Budget to bring the Swansea Bay Region deal to a conclusion.

Other key points from the Budget:

  • A clampdown totalling £820 million on tax avoidance to include action to stop businesses converting capital losses into trading losses, tackle abuse of foreign pensions schemes and introduce UK VAT on roaming telecoms services outside the EU.
  • The forecast for growth for the UK economy this year has gone up from 1.4% to 2%, but this has been downgraded in 2018 from 1.7% to 1.6%, from 2.1% to 1.7% for 2019, then 1.9% in 2020 and 2% in 2021.
  • There was no change to previously planned upratings of duties on alcohol and tobacco, but a new minimum excise duty will be introduced on cigarettes based on a packet price of £7.35.

The Secretary of State for Wales said it was a "serious" Budget that prepares Wales and the UK for the future.

It's building on the strong economy. The Chancellor rightly referred to unemployment in Wales, which is lower than that across the rest of the UK. Wages are growing faster than they are across the rest of the UK. So Wales is in a good position, but we've got more work to do.

– Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales

He also urged the Welsh Government to use its extra £200m to support businesses in Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, said it was a "high tax, low wage" Budget.

We are less than two years away from leaving both the Single Market and the Customs Union and there was nothing in the Budget to help the UK or the Welsh economy to protect people’s jobs and wages in preparation for the transformational changes ahead.

– Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru

Welsh Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Nick Ramsay AM, said the Budget "sets out a comprehensive plan to secure our long-term economic future and build a stronger, fairer and better Wales."

The Treasury has also now released the detailed report, know as the Red Book, which supports today's Budget speech.

It reveals that the Welsh Government is expected to get £15 billion from the Treasury 2017/18 - £200 million more than was planned for the same financial year in George Osborne's last Budget.

Much of that extra money is due to an increase for capital projects announced in the autumn statement.

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