Wales politics

Deal is agreed to pass Welsh government budget

Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood at a press conference on Tuesday
Image caption Kirsty Williams and Leanne Wood at a press conference on Tuesday

Welsh Labour ministers have agreed a deal with opposition parties to ensure their budget is passed in the Senedd.

Around £100m will be devoted to Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat priorities, including money to treat more patients in the community rather than hospital.

There is also a doubling of funding for a scheme to help poorer school pupils.

Lacking an overall majority, Labour needs agreement to approve its 2014/15 spending plans, expected to be the toughest since devolution in 1999.

The full draft budget, worth around £15bn, will be published on Tuesday afternoon, with AMs due to vote on the final version before Christmas.

£50m will be spent on the fund to keep more patients, who do not need to be admitted, out of hospital and treated in the community.

A further £9.5m will be used to provide robotic prostate cancer treatment in north and south west Wales and to improve telemedicine services, allowing more specialist consultations closer to patients' homes.

£35m was secured to expand a Liberal Democrat flagship policy, the pupil deprivation grant.

It currently gives schools £450 for every child eligible for free school meals.

This will now rise to £918 per pupil in 2014/15.

A £5.5m fund to prevent homelessness amongst vulnerable people was also announced.

A joint statement from First Minister Carwyn Jones, Plaid leader Leanne Wood and Welsh Lib Democrat leader Kirsty Williams called it an "unprecedented £100m agreement".

The deal between government and opposition was announced as public services braced themselves for spending cuts, expected to be announced a few hours later by Finance Minister Jane Hutt.

Local councils had already been warned they will be exposed to more cuts than in previous years.

A Welsh government source said ministers were preparing to deliver "the toughest budget since devolution".

John Rae, director of resources with the Welsh Local Government Association, said: "We estimate we are facing cuts of around 4% after the local government minister warned us we'd be looking at English-style reductions."

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, he said there had been "a level of protection" to local government in Wales, and a study had shown that until now councils in Wales probably had taken "half the cut that councils in England had faced".

He added that all the councils in Wales had their own priorities, but services in "discretionary areas" such as leisure, culture, planning, libraries, highways, street lights and economic development would be affected.

The Conservatives have previously criticised Labour for not protecting the health budget against inflation.

Spending on the NHS has been frozen in recent years - meaning it has been cut in real terms after taking account of inflation.

A review of the health budget was carried out over the summer.

Speaking ahead of the draft budget, shadow finance minister Paul Davies AM criticised the situation in the NHS in Wales where "patients are routinely waiting over four hours to be seen in A&E".

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Media captionLocal government is bracing itself for cuts

He added: "For the sake of our NHS, Carwyn Jones must use this draft budget to reverse Labour's damaging health cuts."

In the last two years, Labour has done separate budget deals with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

This year, Plaid and the Lib Dems have joined forces to negotiate a deal with the government.

An assessment by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank said the UK government's block grant to Wales in 2013/14 would be around 9.4% smaller in real terms than it was in 2010/11.

More cuts announced for the two years after that would take the reduction to 12.2%.

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