Jane Hutt AM, Minister for Finance and Government Business
The late timing of the UK Government’s Spending Review presents us with significant challenges for the preparation and publication of the Draft Budget 2016-17.
Despite our calls for early clarity, we will not know our Budget for 2016-17 until 25 November. We are facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty. Detail has yet to be provided on the either the trajectory of UK Government spending plans, or the period for which the UK Government will publish its plans. This makes planning our own Budget exceptionally difficult.
Throughout this sustained period of austerity, we have done our utmost to protect vital public services from cuts – including when the UK Government has changed its plans at short notice. An over-arching imperative in any budget cycle is to provide early certainty for our partners on future spending plans, including health bodies, local authorities and third sector organisations, as well as allowing sufficient time for the Assembly to complete meaningful scrutiny of our spending plans. This is an almost impossible task given the timescales imposed by the UK Government.
In light of these unprecedented constraints, I intend to publish the Draft Budget 2016-17 on 8 December, and the Final Budget on 1 March. Publishing the Draft Budget within two weeks of knowing our settlement will be challenging, but is the only way to ensure the Final Budget is moved before the deadline by which local authorities need to finalise their spending plans.
In light of the lack of clarity provided on UK plans for future years, coupled with the challenging timescales we face, it is my intention to publish plans for 2016-17 only.