The Chancellor’s Spring Budget has fallen well short of providing the support people need during the cost-of-living crisis, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said today.
She said the Chancellor made a series of deliberate choices to prioritise “petrol and potholes” over investment in public services, pay and economic growth.
And although the Office for Budget Responsibility today set out a positive forecast for inflation to fall back from its record high levels by the end of this year, its analysis shows that living standards are expected to fall by 6% between 2021-22 and 2023-24 - the largest decrease since records began.
Responding to the Budget, which will provide Wales with an additional £178m of funding over two years, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:
Today we saw a less than bare minimum Budget, which misses the big picture, at a time when people’s financial situations are worsening.
It fell short of providing meaningful support – there were sticking plasters when we needed significant action. Potholes and petrol took precedence over pay rises for teachers and NHS staff.
Critical public services which we all rely on continue to face devastating cuts – there was no extra funding for health, social services or local government.
The decision to maintain the energy price guarantee for a further three months will provide some comfort for people in this ongoing cost-of-living crisis and is something we have been consistently calling for.
We have also been calling on the UK Government to make Universal Credit fairer and for energy companies to stop penalising people on prepayment meters. We have seen small steps in the right direction in these areas.
The Chancellor today made some big and long-term commitments on childcare in England. We are already rolling-out a phased expansion of our childcare offer to two-year-olds as part of our Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.
We will consider how best to use the consequentials from this announcement as a Cabinet, to best meet the needs of people in Wales.
But we need to be really clear: this Budget does not go far enough in addressing the very real challenges people are facing.
The Chancellor had the financial levers and capacity to provide comprehensive and meaningful support, as well as to invest in public services, public sector pay and economic growth. What we have seen today has unfortunately fallen short.
It was also disappointing to see the lack of specific investment in Wales. The Chancellor did not take advantage of the investment opportunities in rail, research and renewable energy.
We will be carefully analysing the detail of the announcements made today and will be providing more information about what they mean for Wales in the coming days and weeks.