Finance ministers from the devolved administrations are urging the UK government to ease the financial restrictions imposed on devolved governments so they can better respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Ahead of the Chancellor’s Summer Statement, Rebecca Evans, Kate Forbes and Conor Murphy are calling for assurances that will give them the freedom to switch capital funding to day-to-day revenue and put an end to the arbitrary limits on borrowing. They are also looking for more clarity on details around the forthcoming Spending Review.
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:
Our response to the COVID-19 crisis has been hampered by UK imposed rules that limit our ability to get more resources to the frontline.
There is no clear rationale for these rules, which undermine good budget management in Wales.
The Welsh Local Government Association, Wales TUC, FSB Cymru and Institute for Fiscal Studies and, more recently, the Senedd’s Finance Committee, have all made the same calls for change.
The crisis has made the issue urgent. It’s time for the UK government to act and provide the flexibility we need to respond and invest in Wales’ recovery.
Kate Forbes, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance, said:
“The powers we are seeking will enable the Scottish Government to respond to COVID-19 more effectively and reboot our economy. They are relatively limited powers, but would ease some of the immense pressures on our budget and give us more tools to kick-start our recovery.
“At the moment, any extra money spent bolstering services and supporting the economic recovery must be taken from other areas. That creates risks for our essential public services, jobs and businesses. I am therefore calling on the Chancellor to ease these rigid fiscal rules, and give us the flexibility we need to properly address the monumental challenges our economy is facing.
“I also want to see greater ambition in the level of investment in our economy. Last week the Scottish Government set out a proposal for an £80 billion UK-wide stimulus package. What is needed at this time of crisis is bold and practical policies that will boost consumption, promote investment and protect jobs.”
Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, Conor Murphy added:
“It is crucial that the Devolved Administrations are equipped to respond swiftly and effectively to the challenges arising from COVID.
“More financial flexibility can help us deal with these challenges and use our budgets to support public services, protect the vulnerable, and deliver an economic recovery.”