Finance Ministers unite to put pressure on chancellor

Finance Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales want changes to the way they're funded

The Finance Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have joined forces to urge the chancellor to make sweeping changes to the way devolved governments are funded.

Their call comes ahead of Rishi Sunak's statement to the Commons on Wednesday in which he's expected to announce large scale spending plans.

The Finance Ministers say they need more flexibility in the spending rules in order to 'better respond to the coronavirus crisis.'

They want the chancellor to

  • allow devolved governments to switch money earmarked for capital funding (for major one-off projects such as road-building and other construction schemes) to day to day or 'revenue' spending

  • end 'arbitrary limits on borrowing.' Currently the Welsh Government can borrow up to £1bn

  • give more clarity about what will be included in his Spending Review which is due in the autumn

Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said,

Our response to the COVID-19 crisis has been hampered by UK imposed rules that limit our ability to get more resources to the frontline. There is no clear rationale for these rules, which undermine good budget management in Wales.

Rebecca Evans MS, Finance Minister for Wales

Separately to her joint statement with Kate Forbes and Conor Murphy, Rebecca Evans has also written to the chancellor. Amongst other things she's urging Rishi Sunak to:

  • ensure enough funding to allow the Welsh Government to continue to cope with the pandemic

  • consider reducing National Insurance Contributions to help create and retain jobs

  • reverse cuts to benefits over the last ten years and speed up payment of Universal Credit

  • substantially increase statutory sick pay

The UK Government says that it's committed to working with the devolved governments and points out that it's already given the Welsh Government an extra £2.5bn during the coronavirus crisis.

Many of the programmes expected to be announced by the chancellor are also likely to trigger extra funding for the Welsh Government.