Violins and budgets

This was no blood-on-the-carpet austerity budget by the Welsh government.

The obvious winner is the NHS. An extra £278m allows Labour to go into the assembly election saying that it will have given real-terms protection to health budgets between 2010 and 2016.

That, combined with the latest Treasury figures showing that health spending per head in Wales is 1% higher than in England, look like being the twin statistical pillars used by the party next year.

The First Minister has already called on them, and during a Radio Wales interview after the budget it was also striking to note how often he directly compared the NHS in Wales with England.

This has been something Labour figures have consistently told us wasn't helpful, or even accurate because the two systems were analysed in such different ways.

Three-course dinner

If the Conservatives wants a scrap over NHS funding, and they most certainly do, then it appears the First Minister will be happy to oblige.

The Tory point is that it has taken five years for health spending to catch up to a point where it should be and in the meantime £1bn has been removed from the system.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies described the extra funding as like offering someone a three-course dinner after they'd nearly starved to death.

There has been a debate about how tough this budget actually is for the Welsh government.

The finance minister Jane Hutt referred to it consistently as being difficult. But if you take into account day to day and capital spending, next year's budget is 0.3% lower than now.

Put the violins away

My colleague Felicity Evans summed it up nicely on Good Evening Wales when she suggested to Jane Hutt that it was now time to put the violins away.

That said, I don't want to underestimate the scale of the internal changes in many government departments that will be triggered by reductions in revenue spending.

Who has had to make the biggest sacrifice to allow ministers to find a 4% rise for health?

Councils are obviously the big losers again. 2% next year follows 4% and 6% cuts consecutively.

Many in the higher education establishment are unhappy with the the decision to cut the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales budget by around a third.

Mixed bag

Elsewhere it's a mixed bag. Areas like economic development and Natural Resources Wales will have to make savings in their day to day spending budgets, but there'll be increases in capital budgets at the same time.

Arts bodies like National Museum Wales are facing cuts of 5%. It has been modelling for this eventuality but it'll still be tough.

And language campaigners are annoyed by cuts in support for the Welsh language.

The obvious areas to make savings in the public sector have already been targeted, so anything on top will by definition be difficult. If it was easy, it would have been done already.

The details are still being poured over of a budget that will form the backdrop to many of the debates in the coming months.

Related Topics