Wales

First Minister Carwyn Jones blames Gillan for cuts

  • 21 October 2010
  • From the section Wales

First Minister Carwyn Jones is blaming Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan for the Spending Review settlement he claims is worse than other parts of the UK.

He said Wales had suffered from a lack of "clout around the cabinet table".

Mr Jones said Wales had been treated unfairly in Chancellor George Osborne's spending review with cuts amounting to 7.5% over five years.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State for Wales said she would not engage in a "public slanging match".

He added: "It is, however, a fact that the Comprehensive Spending Review has delivered a fair settlement for Wales with the reduction in the Assembly Government's budget smaller than the UK average."

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff Bay Mr Jones said Wales would take a bigger percentage cut in its budget than either Scotland or Northern Ireland as a result of the UK Government's spending review.

He said Wales' cut amounted to 7.5% over 5 years, whereas Scotland's was 6.8% and Northern Ireland 6.9%.

The First Minister also argued that whilst Chancellor George Osborne had softened the blow of cuts by announcing funding for major capital projects in other parts of the UK, he had not offered any such new projects for Wales.

Mr Jones said: "Wales doesn't have the clout around the cabinet table, I think is the real problem.

"I mean, we've been putting our case, I think reasonably to (the) UK government.

"Whether there is an attitude in Whitehall that somehow people in Wales will be more accepting of their fate than people in Scotland or Northern Ireland - I don't know whether that's the case.

"Its difficult to see why that should be."

Schools and hospitals

Mr Jones said Scotland was funded very generously through the Barnett formula whereas the review had hit Wales harder than other parts of the UK because it is underfunded, referring to the independent Holtham Commission.

He argued that the only capital projects announced for Wales - work on the railway lines between Newport and Cardiff and Cardiff and Barry, was actually a "reannouncement" of work already planned.

He said: "We now see that Wales is taking a bigger hit than either Scotland or Northern Ireland.

"We just don't think that's fair. We'll take a fair share, but this is far from being fair."

The Welsh Assembly Government cabinet is meeting to discuss the impact of the UK spending cuts.

The Treasury says Wales' budget will fall by £400m next year but Welsh ministers say it is nearer £900m.

Speaking earlier on Radio Wales Mr Jones said the assembly government would look to "protect schools and hospitals in particular" and reaffirmed that the Welsh government would not be scrapping universal benefits, such as free bas passes, prescriptions and car parking in hospitals.

Public sector

The detail of where the Welsh assembly government budget will be spent will come on 17 November.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones told BBC Wales that Wales' could see up to 25,000 public sector job losses over four years with the same number in the private sector.

However, Conservative and Welsh Lib Dem politicians say the settlement, while tough, should not mean large scale cuts or job losses.

Earlier, Cheryl Gillan told BBC Radio Wales that Chancellor George Osborne had laid out a "spending plan for four years".

She said: "There is safety and security in the stability of the economy and that is the background against which business can do well, jobs can be created and the Welsh economy can prosper."

Welsh Lib Dem finance spokesman Peter Black AM said: "The [UK coalition] government has in place plans to try to bring jobs and improve the economy and I've seen projections that the economy may take a small hit but we will avoid that [double dip] recession."

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