Carmarthenshire and west Wales communities will benefit from the biggest budget deal ever reached by an opposition party since the creation of the National Assembly – that was the message from Plaid Cymru this week after it struck a £119million one-year deal with the Welsh Government.
The Welsh Government's draft budget was published today (Tuesday 18th October).
Local Assembly Member Adam Price is Plaid Cymru's Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Finance. He led his party's negotiations with the Welsh Government over the last few weeks, putting together a package of measures to help realise the party's vision of creating a well, well-educated and wealthier Wales.
The Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member said that by reaching an agreement on this budget, "we are fulfilling our role as robust and responsible opposition – cooperating constructively with the government while forcing them to raise their sights in terms of what can be delivered for Wales."
The budget negotiations had three categories:
- The joint policy priorities identified as areas of common ground which reflect the 'Compact Agreement' Plaid and Labour reached at the start of the Assembly term
- Priorities from Plaid Cymru for which additional money will be given
- Proposals for a forward work programme
Plaid Cymru has succeeded in securing a £119m commitment from the Welsh Government for its manifesto pledges, plus an additional £160m for policy priorities identified as common ground.
As part of the shared policy agreements between Labour and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Government budget will include:
- The prioritising of work to deliver 30 hours free childcare for working parents, with £10million being available to begin the roll out in 2017. Additional funding will be given as the programme grows.
- An additional £88.3million towards apprenticeships and skills, bringing forward at least 100,000 new all-age apprenticeships, with the total investment in apprenticeships likely to be over £400million over the next five years.
- The development of a National Infrastructure Commission and new Welsh Development Bank to grow our economy and increase financial capital available to businesses, with an additional £46million secured.
- £16million to establish a New Treatment Fund, ending the postcode lottery for new drugs and treatments, with over £350million additional funding for health in 2017-18 to support education and training for healthcare professionals.
As part of Plaid Cymru's additional priorities in those negotiations, the party has secured:
- £30million for further and higher education learning, helping to bridge the funding gap and enable students to progress to higher quality qualifications;
- £25million extra funding for local councils, defending local services from the drastic cuts they would expect from further government cuts;
- £20million to increase spending on mental health services
- £15million of capital funding for new diagnostic testing machines such as MRI and CT scanners.
- £3milllion small towns pilot fund to end car parking charges in small towns and provide a level playing field against out-of-town shopping developments;
- £7million additional investment in medical schools and healthcare professional education;
- £1million to assist with end-of-life care;
- £0.5million to establish an eating disorder clinic.
- £5million extra to Visit Wales, helping to promote and sell Wales to the world and encourage tourism.
- £1.5million to boost the Safer Routes to School programme
- £2million Ports Infrastructure Fund to develop our export hubs.
Carmarthenshire and West Wales will benefit from greater investment in childcare provision, local services, in health and wellbeing services as well as major infrastructure projects. In addition to benefiting from the substantial health, education, apprenticeships and skills programme expenditure, Carmarthenshire will specifically benefit through:
- The commitment to accelerate the Llandeilo bypass exploring the use of additional money from the UK Government's Autumn Statement in November;
- A 3.5% budget increase for the National Museum of Wales which includes the National Woollen Museum in Drefach Felindre, and a 3.5% budget increase for the National Library of Wales, both helping to safeguard our heritage for future generations;
- £5million for Welsh for Adults and National Language Agency – the National Centre for Learning Welsh (Y Canolfan Dygsu Cymraeg Cenedlaethol) is based in Carmarthen;
- A full feasibility study into reopening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Railway line;
- A pilot scheme to end town centre car parking charges, with Ammanford, Llandeilo, Llandovery and Newcastle Emlyn at the top of Plaid's local priority list;
- The commitment to develop a new, improved and permanent business rates relief model for small businesses; and
- An additional £46million of capital into the Welsh Development Bank which will unlock finance for west Wales businesses.
- A commitment to support the partnership between Aberystwyth University and the Royal Veterinary College in developing veterinary medicine programmes for animal health and welfare in Wales, including financial support for the programme as part of future budget discussions.
Commenting on the budget deal, Assembly Member Adam Price said:
"From the outset of this Assembly term, Plaid Cymru has been determined to use our role as Official Opposition to deliver tangible benefits for the people of Wales. We are fulfilling our role as robust and responsible opposition – cooperating constructively with the government while forcing them to raise their sights in terms of what can be delivered for Wales.
"We have managed to secure progress on some of our key priorities in the Compact Agreement, itself worth £160million, and today we can announce a further £119million package of that will deliver benefits for everyone in Wales.
"The budget deal Plaid Cymru has secured will mean more investment in medical training, faster diagnosis for people with conditions like suspected cancer and an additional £20million for mental health spending which will make talking therapies and other services available, particularly for young people.
"Local councils will no longer face nominal cuts to their budgets as a result of this deal.
"We have secured funding for thousands more good quality all-age apprenticeships and a huge £30million investment in our universities and further education institutions. And we have secured investment in infrastructure projects that could lead to building new roads, railways and cycle paths across Wales.
"Furthermore the extra money we have secured for arts funding will mean an increase of at least 3.5% to the budget of the Arts Council of Wales, the National Museum of Wales, the National Library of Wales and the Welsh Books Council. All of these institutions have seen cuts to their budgets in recent years. And we will see a huge £5 million investment in the Welsh language, and in particular the Welsh for Adults programme."
Commenting on how the budget relates to Carmarthenshire and west Wales, Adam Price added:
"I'm extremely proud to say that Carmarthenshire will benefit from our budget deal. We have secured tangible gains for our communities for the new financial year, and guarantees for longer term projects.
"I'm delighted to have secured a fund to kick start the delivery of free parking for small towns, increased funding for our local museum, a funded study into re-opening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line and a commitment to accelerate the Llandeilo bypass should new money come from the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in November.
"All of these are, of course, in addition to the Wales-wide additional monies we have secured for our health services, local councils and businesses, not least the agreement to develop a new model of business rates relief for small firms.
"Plaid Cymru's position when entering negotiations was to secure a deal that would help us on our way to delivering a well, well-educated and wealthier Wales. The agreements we've reached – around £279million in their entirety - will bring additional funding to benefit all ages and all industries."