This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post and the Glamorgan Gazette
This year’s Assembly budget process has been particularly difficult. In real terms the money we have available to spend on services in Wales has reduced since 2010.
That is a consequence of the austerity measures that the UK Government has had to adopt so as to rebalance the budget, but it could have been much worse.
We have at least had some protection due to the decision to protect health and education spending in England.
And if the UK Government had followed the assumptions in Labour’s last budget in 2009 the cuts would have been deeper.
It was crucial therefore that the decisions that are made reflect our priority of helping the poorest members in our society, whilst maintaining services as best we can.
Because Labour do not have a majority they needed to do a deal with the Welsh Liberal Democrats. That secured major investment amounting to £223m over two years:
An increase in the Pupil Deprivation Grant: in 2015/16 each school will receive £1,050 for every pupil eligible to receive free schools meals, increasing to £1,150 for 2016/17;
The Pupil Deprivation Grant will be extended to under-5s, worth £300 per pupil on free school meals;
A Youth Travellers Concessionary Fare Scheme’ for 16-18 year olds worth nearly £15m;
Extra childcare investment for further education students in Wales who are parents through a pilot scheme promoted by the National Union of Students;
Funding for around 5,000 new apprenticeships;
£95m capital investment in infrastructure that will provide a strong boost to jobs and the economy;
Our priority has always been to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling opportunity for all – and that is exactly what our achievements in this budget are helping to deliver.