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The Welsh Liberal Democrats say they won't support Labour's spending plans unless it finds more money for schools. As part of its draft budget the Welsh Government says it will spend nearly £5m more on the Pupil Deprivation Grant which came as a result of a deal with the Lib Dems last year.
But the Lib Dems say that's not enough. Finance spokesman Peter Black said:
The Welsh Government needs the votes of another party to pass its budget. Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams has already held preliminary talks with the Finance Minister Jane Hutt. She's said that there's no spare money in the draft plans. That means more talks before the final budget vote in December.
Welsh Conservatives have criticised Labour's draft budget proposals for giving the health service 'the toughest funding settlement in the UK.' Shadow Finance Minister Paul Davies said:
Finance Minister Jane Hutt has announced the draft Welsh budget for 2013/14. She said boosting the economy, creating jobs, investing in schools and hospitals and protecting universal benefits are at the heart of her proposals. There is an additional £175 million investment over the next two years.
- £40 million on improving the Heads of the Valleys Road between Brynmawr and Tredegar
- £25 million for improvements to the A55 Conwy Tunnel
- £30 million for hospital improvements
- £25 million for schools and colleges
- £10 million on high speed broadband
- £13 million on facilities for the 'Flying Start' programme for disadvantaged children
- £12 million on social housing
- £10 million on energy-efficient homes
- £10 million on flood and coastal defence improvements
The Finance Minister said she will 'grow' the social services budget and 'protect' the health budget and funding for schools. The pupil deprivation grant, introduced after a deal with the Lib Dems to get last year's Budget passed, will be maintained, as will a range of free universal benefits.
The draft budget will now be examined in detail by AMs. As the government does not have a majority in the Senedd, it will need to win the support of at least one of the opposition parties. It's likely that money will have to be found to meet some of their priorities and secure their votes.
Welsh Liberal Democrats say they'd want more money spent on schools before they'd back Labour's budget. The spending plans are published later but the Welsh Government doesn't have a majority in the Senedd and needs the votes of another party to get its budget through.
There are more details of the Lib Dem demands here. I asked the party's Welsh leader Kirsty Williams if she's holding out for a continuation of the deal she struck last year or an increase in the amount of money ploughed into schools.
The Welsh Lib Dems say their Budget demands will again concentrate on education. Last year Jane Hutt won their support for her Budget by agreeing to a Pupil Deprivation Grant, similar to the Pupil Premium paid in England. The grant pays £450 to schools for each pupil entitled to free school meals.
The Lib Dems are now saying that although the grant was a start, more must be done to make sure that all pupils in Wales get a fair start in life. In England, there'll soon be a 'catch-up premium' based on the number of pupils arriving in secondary school who have fallen behind in English or maths.
Kirsty Williams says she has held preliminary talks with Jane Hutt about this year's Budget. As Labour lacks an overall majority in the Senedd, the Finance Minister will have to strike a deal with one or other of the opposition parties. The Lib Dems are hoping to be her preferred partners.
Latest ITV News reports
The Welsh Government has outlined how it plans to spend more than £15 billion next year
The Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, unveils her draft Budget at 3pm but weeks of talks lie ahead to get a Senedd majority for her plans.