Wales politics

Kirsty Williams: tax powers 'frighten' first minister

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Media captionKirsty Williams accused the first minister (left, meeting David Cameron) of being 'frightened' of income tax powers

The first minister is "frightened" of taking responsibility over income tax powers, Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams has claimed.

The UK Government announced it was to transfer some financial powers to the Welsh Assembly, including some over income tax.

Carwyn Jones says he will not pursue income tax powers until Treasury funding of Wales is reformed.

A spokesman for the first minister said Ms Williams's claim was "preposterous".

She told the BBC Sunday Politics Wales programme she thought it was "extraordinary" that Mr Jones was not keen to take on more responsibility and powers to vary income tax.

Ms Williams added: "I think the first minister is genuinely concerned about having to take greater responsibility for the outcomes of his policy decisions here in Cardiff.

"At the moment it doesn't matter whether his policies succeed or fail in terms of finance. He simply gets that money given to him by London.

"If he was responsible - because of his policy interventions - for raising some of that money he'd be much more accountable when he does not do things well and I think he's frightened of that."

In response, a spokesman for the first minister said: "This is a preposterous claim.

"It was the first minister who led the campaign to secure a 'Yes' vote for extra powers in the referendum of March 2011.

"It was the first minister who has spent the last year calling on the UK government to stop dithering and implement the Silk Commission recommendations in full.

"Either the Welsh Liberal Democrats were not listening or they're now trying to re-write history."

Following the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister's announcement in the Senedd last Friday, Mr Jones set out the Labour-led Welsh government's position on any future transfer of powers to vary a portion of income tax.

Before the powers were introduced a referendum would be required - the timing of which would be up to the Welsh government and the assembly.

Mr Jones said it would not happen before the next assembly election in 2016 and the Barnett formula - which determines how much the Welsh government gets from the Treasury - should be reformed "before that could even be considered".

Barnett is the mechanism which adjusts block grant funding from the Treasury for the devolved nations based on population.

It calculates the amount of money which comes to Wales as a percentage of what is spent on similar public services in England.

Mr Jones says as the arrangement stands, Wales is £300 million a year down on where it should be.

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Media captionCarwyn Jones was interviewed by Nick Servini on Friday

Mr Jones said: "The funding basis for Wales must be solid first before we can consider whether income tax devolution would be appropriate and right for the people of Wales."

Both the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have criticised the stance.

Also speaking on the Sunday Politics Wales programme, Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan defended Mr Jones' stance and accused opposition parties of launching a "personal attack" on him.

"It's a bit pathetic of the opposition parties to come up with this line, and a personal attack on the first minister," she said.

"Labour is in control in Cardiff Bay. We are very keen to move ahead to make things better for the people of Wales and doing it in a very responsible way.

"There's absolutely no question of not wanting to take responsibility.

"We have an opportunity now to move forward and I hope now that the opposition parties will stop carping on about an individual reaction but say 'how would we go forward?'"

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