Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House
Today, we published the Welsh Government’s Annual Budget for 2012-13, which sets out a responsible and credible budget for growth and jobs that enables us to take action to boost economic confidence and support the most vulnerable through these difficult financial times.
The Bank of England recognises that this is one of the most serious financial crises ever seen in the UK with evidence from the OBR and recognition by the Chancellor that the UK economy is still weak. These challenges have shaped our spending plans.
Since we published our proposals in October, there has been detailed scrutiny of our spending plans. We have worked closely with a range of interested partners. We have considered the evidence and feedback from Assembly Committees as well as partners in local government, business, trade unions and the Third Sector. We have welcomed the broad support we have received for the focus we have placed on growth and jobs.
During our broad discussions around the Budget, a concern that emerged was the support available for our most disadvantaged pupils. This also formed the key plank of a Budget Agreement secured with the Welsh Liberal Democrats in addition to the £38.9 million economic stimulus package which supports the skills and apprenticeship agenda. In the Final Budget, we are enhancing the funding currently targeted at the most disadvantaged pupils via the School Effectiveness Grant and to create a new fund – the Pupil Deprivation Grant. Our intention is to allocate an additional £20 million to this Grant in 2012-13, with an indicative allocation of £20 million in each of 2013-14 and 2014-15. This targeted support will help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their potential and maximise their contribution to society and the economy.
An important feature of discussions since we published the Draft Budget has been the use of the £38.9million consequential resulting from the UK Government’s decision to freeze Council Tax in England. In line with our priorities to support the Welsh economy and develop public services, we have decided to use this money to
boost business confidence and create opportunity for young people as well as employers.
Our previous plans included additional money to stimulate growth and protect jobs. Yesterday we announced our plans to support a package of measures to support skills and provide additional apprenticeships as well as investing in infrastructure in schools, housing, Enterprise Zones and creating jobs in the construction sector. Of the £38.9m, £8.23m will be spent during 2012-13 with the remainder spent in-year. The allocations for 2012-13 that are reflected in the Final Budget are:
- £4.23 million to support the expansion of the Young Recruits Programme. This is an extension of the existing scheme to provide financial support to eligible employers who can offer a high quality apprenticeship programme. This will help fund a further 1800 apprenticeships;
- £3 million to support the extension of Skills Growth Wales. This programme builds on the success of ProAct, providing support to companies that plan to expand their workforce and require financial assistance to make this possible. It complements Jobs Growth Wales; and
- £1 million to support Cardiff Housing Project. This investment will assist the remediation work required to allow a broad partnership to deliver a mix of affordable and market housing over the next four to five years.
We have placed the equality assessment at the centre of our budget processes when developing our spending plans. Alongside the Final Budget, we will publish the additional work undertaken to assess the equality impact of new programmes and funding streams since the February 2011 Budget was approved, together with the comprehensive Equality Impact Assessment we published last year. This will provide a full picture of the equality impacts. An equality impact assessment will also be carried out on the additional allocation of £20 million for the Pupil Deprivation Grant in 2012-13.
We have all faced challenges as a result of the continuing tough financial climate, and within a constrained financial envelope, we have maximised the use of our resources available to us. Our spending plans proposed in the Draft Budget for Growth and Jobs remain a firm base from which we can deliver our ambitions for Wales, as outlined in our Programme for Government.