Hutt slams ‘Budget of missed opportunities’

19 Mar 14
Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt has criticised Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget, saying it was full of missed opportunities and would do nothing for economic growth in Wales.

By Vivienne Russell | 20 March 2014

Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt has criticised Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget, saying it was full of missed opportunities and would do nothing for economic growth in Wales.

‘As the Office of Budget Responsibility say, the measures announced by the chancellor will “have a negligible effect on annual GDP growth”,’ she said.

‘Since 2010, we have seen record-breaking cuts to the Welsh budget – by 2015/16, it will be 10% lower than when the current UK Government came to office in 2010. This Budget delivers some small increases, but also brings significant additional burdens – it gives with one hand, but takes away with the other.’

While the Budget had given Wales an additional £36m over the next two years, this was offset by the fact that the Welsh government needed to find £70m to cover public sector pension costs.

But Hutt added that the chancellor’s confirmation that the Wales Bill would be published today was an ‘important step forward and will take us closer to gaining the vital borrowing powers we need to invest in Wales’ infrastructure’.

Osborne said yesterday that the legislation would give Wales new tax and borrowing powers to fund infrastructure projects such as upgrades to the M4.

In Northern Ireland, finance minister Simon Hamilton welcomed an additional £10.2m for capital investment.

‘I have been, for some time now, stressing the importance of investing in our physical infrastructure to secure long term economic growth. I welcome the additional capital allocations for Northern Ireland in [the] Budget and look forward to the improvements to our infrastructure and boost to our economy they will bring,’ he said.

But Hamilton warned that more buoyant economic prospects would not translate into increased budgets for public services.

‘My view is that this also provides an opportunity to begin a process of reform so that we actually improve services despite reducing budgets. The task will not be easy but it is one we must face up to and provide solutions for.’

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