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A budget for Wales

This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post

As I lost my Welsh Assembly seat in May, the Welsh Government draft budget which was published last week, is the first that I have not had an involvement in for five years.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats may only have one Assembly Member but the deal that Kirsty Williams struck before accepting the post of Education Secretary is very evident in that budget.

Our influence is there in the doubling of the pupil deprivation grant for the youngest and poorest learners, a £4.5m boost for deprived children in the Foundation Phase, which was a key Lib Dem manifesto pledge.

There is also protection for the money, first won by the Welsh Liberal Democrats that is targeted at our poorest pupils in primary and secondary education and which has been successful in helping them to do better at school.

An extra £22.74m has gone to Swansea schools through this grant since 2012, £15.6m to schools in Neath Port Talbot. That funding is set to continue.

The budget includes £111m for apprenticeships and traineeships, £10m for pilot projects to support 30 hours of free childcare a week, and a £20m boost to raise school standards,

There is £16m for a new treatment fund, £240m extra for the Welsh NHS, and £60m for the Intermediate Care Fund, which seeks to improve the links between health and social services. We also have the best local government settlement for years.

Some of these schemes are continuations from previous budget deals others are Welsh Liberal Democrats’ manifesto promises. That includes funding for 20,000 new affordable homes over the next five years.

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