Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has said the UK government’s Spending Review and autumn Budget contains “clear gaps in funding” where Westminster has failed to invest in Wales.
The Spending Review announced by the Chancellor on Wednesday contained no new investment for Coal Tip remediation or significant additional funding to support rail infrastructure in Wales – priorities highlighted by the Welsh Government as critical in the months leading up to the budget.
The Welsh Government stressed that its own focus was now on delivering a Welsh Government Budget in December that builds a stronger, greener, fairer Wales.
The UK government’s Spending Review sets out its spending plans until 2024/25. On 20 December the Welsh Government will publish its Budget outlining its own spending plans over that period.
Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government’s Finance Minister, said:
“This UK government Spending Review hasn’t delivered for Wales. Vital funding priorities, such as the long-term remediation of coal tips and greater funding in rail infrastructure, have been ignored.
“While the Spending Review does give us some medium term financial certainty and some additional investment, it is more than offset by the inflationary and system pressures that we are facing. The budget fails to meet the scale of the challenge that families, public services and the wider economy are still facing as a result of the pandemic.
“The fact remains that there are clear gaps in funding where the UK government should be investing in Wales and it has chosen not to. Arrangements for replacing EU Structural Funds remain unclear but what we do know is it falls well short of the £375 million we were receiving – these are funds that support skills, businesses and decarbonisation. HS2 is expected to have a negative impact of £150 million per year on the Welsh economy, while the failure to back a long-term solution for Wales’ coal tips could create an additional financial pressure of at least £60 million per year.
“The limited measures announced by the Chancellor to help households grappling with the increase in the cost of living don’t go nearly far enough. Further steps should be taken to target support to lower income families struggling as a result of the cut to Universal Credit, the future increase in National Insurance contributions, and spiralling energy prices.
“While there can be no doubt that we have been left with some difficult choices I am determined to deliver a Budget that builds a stronger, greener, fairer Wales - helping public services and our economy recover from the pandemic, and moving us closer towards being a zero-carbon nation.”
In the run-up to the Spending Review the Welsh Government had strongly made the case for investment from the UK government in coal tip safety to tackle the impacts of climate change and support remediation in coal mining communities.
Ahead of yesterday’s Coal Tip Safety Summit the First Minister stressed that Wales’ funding settlement doesn’t recognise the substantial, long-term costs involved in an issue that pre-dates devolution.
The Finance Minister commented:
“Throughout this process we have been absolutely clear about the need for a package of investment to remediate coal tips. This funding has not come and I’m deeply disappointed the UK government has turned it back on communities whose efforts created huge wealth for the UK and who deserve so much better from the UK government.”