Tuesday, October 14 2008
Welsh Conservatives have called on the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government to embark on an era of "smart spending" to ensure frontline public services do not fall victim to the current economic turmoil.
Opposition leader and party finance spokesman Nick Bourne AM warned that ministers need to ditch expensive gimmicks and freebies and instead ensure limited resources are channelled into key areas of public spending.
Mr Bourne’s comments come ahead of publication of the Assembly Government’s draft budget.
Rising inflation and higher fuel costs are expected to impact on the administration’s spending plans.
But Mr Bourne said today that with a £15bn budget the Labour-Plaid government can still share out the money without making real terms cuts in spending on frontline services.
The Welsh Conservative Assembly leader said he feared the budget would still see a widening gap in funding for education in Wales compared to England.
Councils too will be hit hard, forcing local authorities to embark on another year of trying to balance the books through council tax rises and service cuts, Mr Bourne predicted.
The Mid and West Wales AM also said Assembly Government proposals to roll-out more ‘give-aways’ and build thousands of affordable homes are under serious threat because of growing budget pressures.
He added that ministers need to work with both the public and private sector to ensure the maximum amount of money possible is available for frontline services.
Nick Bourne said: "This budget is a real test for the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government’s financial competence.
"We will see today whether or not ministers fully comprehend the impact of the growing economic turmoil.
"And we will see today whether or not they have the ideas to react positively to the challenges we all face.
"Now is the time for smart spending by the Assembly Government.
"Now is the time for ministers to set aside their gimmicks and giveaways and put the national interest first.
"Now is the time for ministers to admit the years of spend spend spend are over.
"The people of Wales want first class public services, which match those in other parts of the United Kingdom.
"Despite extra funding over recent years the gap in standards and funding in too many areas has widened.
"The Assembly Government has an opportunity in its draft budget to address these issues, put people and public services first, and to drop the dogma which is holding Wales back."
Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 30 Millbank, London, SW1P 4DP