Growth and Jobs: the Sequel

Budget for Growth and Jobs - ring any bells? It should.

This time last year the headline was identical. The Welsh government's spending plans then were all about creating growth and jobs, jobs and grwoth. A year on, the commitment and the headline from Finance Minister Jane Hutt, remain the same. A sign of focus, consistency, a lack of imagination, add your own suggestion.

These are spending plans. If a government can't vary taxes or borrow - and this one can't - then in essence, the draft budget amounts to its spending plans, pure and simple. There are choices to be made, tough ones. There are amounts to be divvied up. But in the end, give or take a few extra consequentials here and there, the figures have to add up to the sum that makes up the basic block grant from Westminster.

There is an infrastructure spending plan ("the UK government's Plan A has failed, our plan for jobs and growth is what Wales needs") but look at revenue, or day to day spending next year and what you see isn't pretty. Things are tight. In the case of the NHS, the Welsh Conservatives are again arguing they are too tight. They argue that the NHS in Wales has been snubbed. It's "Groundhog Day" for the health service, "facing the toughest funding settlement in the UK".

There was one in the eye for Johann Lamont, Scottish Labour leader. Universal benefits are going nowhere in Wales. Labour, in Wales, put them in their manifesto. They won the Assembly election hands down. No matter that Ms Lamont regards freebies as a "cynical trick" designed "to make people believe that more was free, when the poorest are paying for the tax breaks for the rich." Jane Hutt stood in the Assembly chamber and defended them as "a vital shield" for those who benefit from them.

Is a free prescription a vital shield for someone on £50,000 a year, I asked her? She didn't dwell on the detail but the principle was clear enough. Wales voted for a party that supports universal benefits. They are staying.

The Liberal Democrats were hinting this morning they'd like to "build on" the pupil deprivation grant they got out of their deal with Labour last year. The way schools are spending the extra cash is being robustly monitored, said Kirsty Williams."It's not about playing hardball ... what we achieved last year made a difference."

Plaid are talking in terms of extra money to boost the economy, the Conservatives more cash for the health service. Jane Hutt is talking in terms of there being next to no cash left to sweeten any kind of deal.