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How was it for you?

Betsan Powys | 11:42 UK time, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Having read the headline announcements made by Alastair Darling in his Pre-Budget Report yesterday, the couple on the train from Paddington last night had come to two conclusions.

Number one: they'd been considering hitting Cardiff this weekend to spend their usual £300 or so on Christmas presents but knew they should really tighten their belts. The thought that the bill, thanks to the cut in VAT, would now come to some £284 by their calculations wasn't really doing it for them.

And secondly, a rueful smile from him and some colourful language as he wondered whether a Chancellor who'd just been talking about debts of half a trillion pounds without flinching might just be tempted to make use himself (incognito of course) of that free debt advice he'd just announced.

If they do go shopping to Cardiff this weekend, then they'll find out soon enough that the VAT cut doesn't come in until Monday. If they go shopping in Cardiff next weekend then hands up who thinks they'd notice the difference then? Good for his mate's business though, he thought.

Paul Murphy and Jim Murphy gave their interviews yesterday sitting in the same chair and singing from the same hymn sheet. This was a bold announcement that would help families and small businesses in Wales/Scotland now when they need it most. 360,000 working Welsh families and 195,000 small and medium sized enterprises in Wales would benefit directly from what was Alastair Darling had announced.

On the opposition front bench David Cameron's eyes prepared for each big moment in George Osborne's response and mouthed the words with him. His lips were moving like an Eisteddfod Mam's in the front row of the pavilion. Cheryl Gillan was there too and with each pointed soundbite - "precision guided missile at the heart of recovery" - the Conservative colours were nailed to the mast. This reckless plan would not work.

Right principles, not going far enough to please the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru. Adam Price MP made that noise a mechanic makes when he peers under your car bonnet and shook his head. He hoped it would work, he really did but ... intake of breath ... he was concerned it wouldn't be enough to get us out spending.

And the Assembly Government?

How quickly do they plan to spend that £140million that isn't new but is now available for them to spend sooner rather than later on building houses and refurbishing schools, creating work where there is not enough?

Have they worked out how much extra money they'll get to spend thanks to the PBR?

Whether and where they might make their own efficiency savings?

Have they, like the couple on the train from Paddington, been planning to spend? Planning to put into the economy some of the milions stored in the so-called Strategic Capital Investment Fund? The one and only allocation of money so far is an investment of £66million or so to make sure we're prepared if there's an outbreak of pandemic flu. Is now the time to spend?

A "knee-jerk statement" wouldn't be appropriate comes the response. After "active consideration" by the Cabinet, expect a statement next week.


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