Welsh government £15bn budget 'to help revive economy'

Cash The block grant is due to fall in cash terms from just over £15bn this year to about £14.95bn

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Wales' finance minister says the country needs a budget to revive the economy as she prepares to set out spending plans for next year.

Jane Hutt will publish the Welsh government's draft budget of just under £15bn for next year.

Ministers have spoken to opponents in an attempt to get their plans through the assembly.

With 30 of 60 seats, Labour must do a deal with another party to secure a majority to get the budget approved.

Last year extra money was promised for deprived pupils in return for Liberal Democrats voting for the budget.

Start Quote

It has to be as it was last year, a budget for growth and jobs”

End Quote Jane Hutt Finance Minister

There has been contact between all three opposition parties and the government, but talks will get under way in earnest once the draft plans are published on Tuesday.

With no power to raise its own finances, the Welsh government's budget is reliant on an annual block grant from the Treasury.

'Challenging'

The spending plans covering 2013/14 come at a time of cuts in public spending, meaning difficult decisions for Finance Minister Jane Hutt.

There are difficult decisions ahead for Finance Minister Jane Hutt.

Add the squeeze on what the government has to spend to the fact that Labour holds only 30 of the 60 seats in the Assembly and it's clear a deal will have to be struck.

Last year it was the Liberal Democrats who voted with Labour in return for extra money for deprived pupils.

This time round their priority is likely to remain education while Plaid Cymru want more investment in the economy and the Conservatives in the health service.

The block grant is due to fall in cash terms from just over £15bn this year to about £14.95bn.

Ms Hutt said the cuts made it a "hugely challenging budget for me to deliver."

She said: "We have to have a budget that helps revive the economy and boosts the economy.

"It has to be as it was last year, a budget for growth and jobs."

There had been particularly big cuts to the Welsh government's capital budget which pays for investment in buildings and infrastructure, she said.

Ms Hutt was speaking on a visit to a mental health unit for older people at University Hospital Llandough, Cardiff, funded by £57m from the Welsh government.

She added: "It's about saying that our public money has to be used in the most important priorities for the economy, for our public services and that is of course the key message of my budget."

The Conservatives, the biggest opposition party, have already signalled they want more spending on the NHS, claiming local health boards are struggling to make ends meet.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas said: "I don't think our focus has changed since the last budget, which is the economy."

Under last year's deal with the Lib Dems, schools were given an extra £450 for every child who receives free school dinners.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "In this budget, we are calling on the Welsh Labour government to make further moves to ensure that Wales' children are not allowed to be left behind."

A final vote is expected in the Senedd in December.

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