Welsh Draft Budget: Health and local councils the only protected areas

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans told ITV Wales National Correspondent Rob Osborne Wales is facing higher charges for university tuition fees, dentistry and care for the elderly.

The Welsh Government has published its spending plans for 2024-25 with health and local councils the only protected areas.

The budget for next year is worth £1.3 billion less than the point it was set in 2021 as a result of inflation, so extra income is needed from other sources.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has today (Tuesday 19 December) said charges for NHS dental care, university tuition fees and domiciliary care could all go up to help generate extra funding for public services and higher education.

She says they've had to make "some really difficult decisions" over reprioritising where money is allocated.

Charges for NHS dental care and university tuition fees could all go up. Credit: PA

Welsh Budget: Who is getting what?


  • Health and Social Care gets an extra £450m with a 4% increase taking its budget to just over £11 billion 

  • Local Government to receive an extra 3.1% 


  • Rural Affairs is the hardest hit overall - the budget decreasing by £50m or 12% compared to indicative 2024/25 budget plans from February 2023.

  • Climate’s budget falls by 3.19% to just over £979m

  • The economy portfolio is down £41m or 6.9%, social justice contracts by £7.5m or 4.1%, and the education and Welsh language budget falls by £65m or 1.6%

  • The Welsh Government's central services and administration budget is down £27m or 8.2%, while local government and climate change fall by 0.2% or £16m and £7.8m respectively.

Even with an extra £450m for health and social care in Wales, an increase of 4%, more than England's uplift of 1%, Ms Evans says health boards and councils will face significant pressures and difficult choices.

The core local government settlement is getting a 3.1% uplift. It funds things like schools, social services, and bin collections.

But there is a reduction across all other ministerial departments.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: "We have had to take some really difficult decisions to radically redesign our spending plans to focus funding on the services which matter most to the people of Wales.

"After 13 years of austerity, a botched Brexit deal, and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, this is the toughest financial situation Wales has faced since the start of devolution.

"Our funding settlement, which comes largely from the UK Government, is not enough to reflect the extreme pressures Wales faces.

"We have been presented with the most stark and painful budget choices in the devolution era.

"We have reshaped departmental spending plans so that we can invest more in the NHS and protect core local government funding for schools, social care and the other services we rely on every day.

"While the UK Government has not provided Wales with a funding settlement that recognises the impact of inflation, we have made changes to our spending plans and targeted investment towards the public services we all value the most."

The Welsh Government has also said it will continue to provide support to people hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis through initiatives like the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

There will also be a £384 million package of support for non-domestic ratepayers, which includes a fifth successive year of relief for retail leisure and hospitality businesses.

A new £20 million Future Proofing Fund will be introduced in early 2024-2025 for businesses.

Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS said that "the Welsh Conservatives would spend every penny the Welsh Government receives for health, on health."

The Welsh Draft Budget is accused of being "one of soundbites over substance" by the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS.

He told ITV Wales: “The Welsh Conservatives would spend every penny the Welsh Government receives for health, on health and deliver a substantial workforce plan to tackle Labour’s excessive waiting lists.

“This budget is as much Plaid Cymru’s as it is Labour’s and are equally to blame for the hardship inflicted by cuts to the rural affairs, education and economy budgets to fund pet projects like blanket 20mph and sending more politicians to Cardiff Bay."

With rural facing one of the largest budget cuts, the Welsh Liberal Democrats party have criticised the move. Jane Dodds MS said: “This budget announcement is sadly the same old deal that leaves Wales standing still and doesn’t move us forward.

"I welcome the extra funding being provided to both the NHS budget, and local government funding. However, the fact remains that huge parts of Wales are still being left behind with this budget, in particular rural Wales.

"We need more investment in our rural areas and more support for our farmers."

The Welsh Government’s draft budget is “unsustainable” and will have a “serious long-term impact” on Wales, Plaid Cymru has said, with promises, it will "do all it can to scrutinise, challenge and influence the budget over the coming weeks.”

Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said: "There’s no doubt that the context is a very tough one, but Wales faces a double-whammy.

“On one hand, the funding deal we get from the UK Government is unfair and inadequate. That’s true of the present Conservative Government, and there’s no commitment from Labour that they’d put that right either, or pay Wales the £2bn owed from the HS2 rail project.

“On the other hand, serious questions must also be asked of the way Labour spend public money. Their failure to get to grips with running the NHS and our transport system means the inadequate spending power we have goes on sticking plaster solutions rather than fixing problems and building long-term sustainability.

"Cuts in apprenticeships now are the kind of short-term decisions that we could pay heavily for in years to come. "

The UK Government said: "The Welsh Government bears ultimate responsibility for the decisions that it makes today on spending.

"It can choose where to allocate its resources in devolved areas as it sees fit, and it is accountable to the Senedd and the people of Wales for those choices. This is an important principle of devolution."

On Wednesday, 20 December, MSs on the Senedd finance committee will scrutinise Ms Evans on the Welsh Government’s draft 2024-25 spending plans.

The provisional local government settlement – which will set out how much each of Wales’ 22 councils will receive in 2024/25 – is set to be published at 11.00 am on the same day.

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