BBC BLOGS - Betsan's Blog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Dr ap Newsnight

Betsan Powys | 09:33 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

He's become known for that interview with Jeremy Paxman - the one that had Plaid supporters flocking to YouTube and coining a new nickname for their economic adviser: Dr Eurfyl ap Newsnight.

Dr ap Gwilym as he's actually called, was here, there and everywhere at Plaid's conference in Aberystwyth. He was gathering brownie points aplenty for putting Mr Paxman in his place and earning kudos at a newly-opened haunt for local foodies by pointing out that they'd failed to charge him for two rather nice bottles of wine. I think that's what you call putting your money where your mouth is.

He's become known for something else, too, over the past eighteen months or so - producing estimates of cuts in public expenditure that are frequently higher than most people's. An example: he predicted the impact of the coalition government's emergency budget on the Welsh budget would be £220m. In the event, it turned out to be £163m.

But in today's Western Mail he accuses the Assembly Government, the one in which Plaid are partners, of exaggerating the scale of the cuts to come. In fact the headline has him blaming Labour and First Minister Carwyn Jones for playing up the scale of the cuts. There will be Plaid ministers this morning who must be acutely aware that they - and their party - are fully signed up to government's predictions of the "grim" cuts to come.

The Assembly Government have been working on a worst case scenario of annual cuts of 3% in the revenue budget and 10% capital. They do that because they won't know the exact figures until the Chancellor spills the beans in his Comprehensive Spending Review on October 20th. Their thinking is that it's always easier to put money back into budget plans than take it out, if things turn out not be not quite so grim after all. If ministers find they're then able to dull the blow a bit, they can do that but if they can't, they might as well be ready for the worst.

Those in-the-know - or as in-the-know as it's possible to be given the inexact science of predicting the effect of the Barnett formula on cuts that aren't yet finalised - have been quietly suggesting that while things will be grim, they may not be as utterly devastating as some have been imagining. "It'll be degrees of grimness" said one. He seemed, perhaps, aware that when it turns out at the Assembly Government has any money at all to spend on things like roads and hospitals, voters may be pleasantly surprised. Between the lines he was, perhaps, starting to wonder whether backlash to the CSR will arrive too late to put people off voting Conservative in May.

From what Dr ap Gwilym says in today's article, all he's doing is pointing up a difference between his estimates and those of the Assembly Government. But don't tell me the anti-Labour headline hasn't led to some raised eyebrows in the corridors of power this morning where, the last time I looked, Plaid ministers were fully signed up to those 3% and 10% predictions.

One other realisation that's dawning is this: if George Osborne does decide to protect departmental spending on October 20th, he'll have to balance the books by looking for even deeper cuts elsewhere: for instance, in the welfare bill. He's already indicated that's the way his mind might be working. If he does squeeze welfare harder in order to lay off departmental spend, then bear in mind that Wales is more dependent on welfare payments than most other parts of the UK.

The upshot? While the Welsh budget, come October 20th, would suffer less than predicted, cuts to welfare would knock the Welsh economy where it really hurts.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.