Setting the Welsh Government budget for next year has been “one of the hardest since the start of devolution”, the finance minister has said, as the country faces a “perfect storm of financial pressures”.
Published on 14 December, the draft budget for 2023-24 aims “to help protect public services and the most vulnerable.”
The Welsh Government said that “difficult decisions have been made to reprioritise funding from within Welsh Government budgets to maximise support for public services and for people and businesses most affected by the cost-of-living crisis and the recession”.
The Draft Budget also allocates additional funding which came to Wales through the Autumn Statement.
An extra £165 million is being allocated for NHS Wales to help protect frontline services.
An additional £227m is being provided to local government to help safeguard the services delivered by councils – including schools – as well as delivering the Real Living Wage in social care.
The Welsh Government will provide further support to education with an extra £28m for the education budget, to strengthen the further education sector, improve standards in schools, support children whose families are on lower incomes, and help children and young people with additional learning needs.
The full £117m consequential from education spending in the Autumn Statement has been provided to local government to fund schools.
Funding is also being provided to support Wales’ ongoing humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine and the thousands of people who have sought safety and sanctuary in Wales – £40m will be allocated in 2023-24 and £20m in 2024-25.
The Draft Budget also provides an additional £18.8m for the Discretionary Assistance Fund, which provides lifeline emergency cash payments to people facing financial hardship.
And an additional £40m will support public transport.
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans (pictured) said: “This is a budget in hard times, which will help to protect frontline public services as far as we can in the face of a perfect storm of financial pressures, while also providing some extra help to those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis and supporting our economy through the recession.
“Our approach is designed to maximise the impact of all our available resources.
“This has been one of the toughest budgets since devolution.
“It is being delivered as the UK economy is once again in recession, with inflation at a 40-year high and energy costs soaring.
“Inflation has eroded the spending power of our budget but not our ambition.
“We have taken very difficult decisions to make sure all our resources are used to help support people, businesses and services through the tough year ahead.”
The Welsh Government’s budget is worth up to £1bn less next year than when it was originally announced, and up to £3bn less over the three-year spending review period from 2022-23 to 2024-25.
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said that the draft budget was “further proof” that the current devolution settlement did not work for “the people of Wales”.
Mr Price called for “stronger” fiscal powers for Wales so the Welsh Government could better protect people from the Tories’ “catastrophic mismanagement” of the UK economy – but added the Welsh Government could use all levers at its disposal to “soften the blow” and support “vital public services”.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader and Mid and West Wales MS Jane Dodds said she “recognises the difficulties in setting this budget given the crisis in the economy”, but “would like to see a greater focus on a number of key areas” including social care, dentistry and home insulation.