Wales: Plaid blames Treasury ’s ‘t ight’ settlement for policy delays

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jul 9 15:00:16 UTC 2008

Plaid blames Treasury's 'tight' settlement for policy delays
Jul 8 2008 by David Williamson, Western Mail

PLAID CYMRU ministers yesterday voiced their frustrations with UK
Treasury funding of the Assembly Government. Describing the
disappointments – and highlights – of the first year of their One
Wales coalition agreement with Labour, Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn
Jones described the particular difficulties of a "tight" settlement
which denied the opportunity to introduce key policies. But it emerged
last night that an announcement is expected imminently about the
launch of a commission, which could recommend major changes in how the
devolved Government is financed.

Mr Wyn Jones said: "[The] Assembly has no powers over raising finances
itself. It's totally dependent on the financial settlement."
Stressing the broad scope of the commission, he said it would
investigate more than the basic funding formula used to determine the
Assembly's cash allocation from London. He said: "This isn't just
about the reform of the Barnett formula... It's about extra powers for
the Assembly in terms of borrowing and to see the extent that
corporation tax variation is an issue we can take up with the

Describing the challenges of taking power at a time when growth in
funding had slowed, he said: "There have been issues, of course, and
the biggest issue that we faced [was] the fact we had a very tight
Treasury settlement, something that we knew was going to happen. What
we didn't particularly foresee, nor did any of the devolved
administrations, was that it would be particularly difficult in year

"So things we had planned to do in year one we had to delay. The most
significant of them obviously was the fact we wanted to help
pensioners with council tax – something that we wanted to introduce in
year one we've now had to delay until year two."

Plaid's four ministers yesterday detailed the challenges of the first
12 months sharing power with Labour.

Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said: "The hardest decision I've had
to deal with is the fact the UK Treasury ultimately did not provide
compensation to the Assembly Government during the foot-and-mouth

"The flip-side of that, of course, is the Assembly Government itself
found the £13m package to support the farmers in Wales. It should have
been funded by the UK Treasury."

Heritage Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas acknowledged the disappointment
felt among Plaid supporters that the proposed daily Welsh-language
newspaper, Y Byd, did not receive funding.

He said: "The Welsh language is never an easy issue for anybody or any
government. And obviously the most difficult decision I've had to face
would be the decision on the provision of news through the medium of

"Some of our members were very enthusiastic or very committed to the Y
Byd project and I had to face that and take a decision which I think
is the right decision."

He added that the drafting of a Legislative Competence Order (LCO)
which would give the Assembly the power to make laws relating to the
Welsh language had taken longer than expected.

He said: "It's true to say most of my time over the past year has been
spent on preparing the Welsh-language LCO. I'm not going to apologise
for that.

"It has taken longer than we first thought but that's because the LCO
now is going to be broader and it's certainly more complex than we'd
first anticipated. It's important we get that LCO right because we
don't want to be in the situation where we find ourselves trying to
develop Measures in the Assembly and finding the LCO doesn't
accommodate those measures fully."

The Deputy First Minister also confirmed the Assembly Government still
planned to hold a referendum on the creation of a Welsh parliament.

He said: "We believe the people of Wales will be ready to move forward
to a referendum before 2011 but, of course, we have to assess the
opinion polling and the evidence we have before making a final
decision, but I think it's looking quite positive at the moment."

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