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Numbers and crunching

Betsan Powys | 14:04 UK time, Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Before the Finance Minister - or the civil servant charged with knowing which button on the keyboard to press on her behalf - unveils the Assembly Government's spending plans, what about this morning's unemployment figures to kick off the number crunching?

They are down - down more in Wales than in other parts of the UK.

So come on then, let's start the politicking early.

Cheryl Gillan interprets the drop as "a real vote of confidence in the coalition Government's economic policies". It is a sign too that the way forward for Wales is to grow and develop the private sector.

Her shadow, Peter Hain interprets the same figures this way. They are down to the other "Labour-led" coalition in Cardiff and its policies, as well as the last Labour government in Westminster. In other words the origins of today's good news is what we did back then, not what you're doing now. In fact you're putting all our good work at risk.

The "Heart of Wales" on the chamber floor had better watch out this afternoon. It's already cracked thanks, or so the story goes, to some heavier-than-he-looked dignitary who stood on it. This afternoon - forget minor cracks. We're talking serious dividing lines.

What do we know?

Some measure of protection for schools, skills and hospitals; a huge hit in store for capital projects; no pledge to ring-fence the health budget; free prescriptions, bus passes and school breakfasts all survive.

And those dividing lines?

Labour and Plaid will argue that they are making every attempt to keep faith with the most disadvantaged in the face of savage Conservative and Liberal Democrat cuts. The Conservatives will argue that Labour and Plaid are about to make a huge mistake in not pledging to fully protect the health budget and that we will all be paying for that mistake for years to come. The Liberal Democrats shout less about allocation than outcomes. It's what this government does with the money - has done with the money they've had in teh past - that matters in the end they argue. The fact that the word 'oucome' is in vogue in Cardiff Bay doesn't make delivering better results any easier, or more likely, they argue.

And what do we know from Scotland?

That the health budget will be ring-fenced, or in the Scottish Government's words "resource funding for health has increased by #280 million, delivering in full the Scottish Government's commitment to pass on the Barnett consequentials to the NHS". There's be a pay freeze except for lowest earners; money will be switched from revenue to capital (much easier, one WAG insider suggested politely to me this morning, when you've got loads more money in your reserves to play with than the government has here); cuts will total £1b.

Any minute now we'll have our own figures to mull over, to interpert, to defend or to attack. Wherever you stand on a day like this, we'll bring you those figures as quickly as we can.

Just keep pressing that refresh button.


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