Wales politics

Wales underfunding claim is Labour 'excuse', says Crabb

Stephen Crabb
Image caption Stephen Crabb asked if Welsh Labour was trying to avoid 'financial accountability'

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has denied claims that the Welsh government is underfunded and accused the first minister of using it as a smokescreen for poor performance.

He said the £300m a year Labour claimed Wales was underfunded by was a "tiny sliver" of the assembly's £15bn budget.

Mr Crabb asked if the party was trying to avoid "financial accountability".

But Labour claimed the Welsh Secretary was "completely alone" in believing Wales was fairly funded.

'Cosy, comfortable place'

First Minister Carwyn Jones has repeatedly called for a better financial settlement from Westminster after a 2010 report by the economist Gerry Holtham identified a £300m annual shortfall.

"We would argue there isn't an underfunding issue at the moment but it is about how you address it in the longer term to make sure that fair funding remains for the future for Wales," Mr Crabb told journalists in Cardiff on Thursday.

"But even if you took the £300m figure as given, what percentage of the Welsh budget are you actually talking about there?

"Are we honestly saying that this tiny sliver is the thing that is responsible for the Welsh government's under-performance of public services and the reason for them to block the devolution of income tax?

Mr Crabb also said Welsh Labour needed to make up its mind on devolution, claiming it was at odds with the party's UK leadership.

"Do they support this next step of devolution which is around financial accountability or do they want to stay in this rather cosy, comfortable place where all they argue about is the need for more money to be spent, rather than thinking carefully about how you raise money and grow wealth?"

'Fighting Wales' corner'

A spokesman for Welsh Labour said: "The Secretary of State is completely alone in saying Wales is funded fairly - it is not.

"We will never accept a settlement for Wales that locks in unfairness.

"People will be confused as to why their Secretary of State is no longer fighting Wales' corner around the cabinet table.

"[Labour leader] Ed Miliband has made clear statements on both fair funding for Wales and a move to a reserved powers model.

"The only division is inside the Tory party, who are split in Cardiff and London as well as between Cardiff and London."

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