After being given the frontpage by the Western Mail today to warn of ‘savage cuts’ to frontline services, it would seem that Peter Hain was wrong yet again.
According to the Treasury, the Welsh Assembly Government will have to find £162.5 million of savings during the next financial year.
This amounts to 2.6 per cent of the £6.2 billion expenditure reduction across all UK Government departments and is considerably below the £220-£300 million of cuts suggested by both Labour and Plaid in the aftermath of the general election.
No-one is ever happy at reductions in spending but as was pointed out over the weekend, this is solely a result of the last Labour Government running up an ‘official’ debt of nearly £900 billion pounds.
Certainly, these savings can be made without affecting frontline services in health and education.
For example, the total savings necessary are equivalent to a 12 per cent saving in the administration column of WAG’s education budget, as pointed out last week.
Indeed, if applied across the whole of the Assembly, this could probably mean that the savings could be made by a reduction in administration of around four per cent this year.
Alternatively, WAG could look to delay some of the ten projects given a £120 million grants package from the Welsh Assembly Government last October. Certainly, the funding for the Children’s Hospital should go ahead but providing a new students union at Bangor University hardly seems a priority to me, especially if it can be built in a couple of years time when the economy is recovering.
There are, as pointed out last week, also better ways in which WAG could begin to procure more locally, with a potential to save tens of millions of pounds whilst protecting local jobs.
Of course, the decision on where to reduce expenditure is up to the Labour-Plaid coalition not the UK Government, but I believe that there can be reductions in expenditure made without hitting frontline services.
Essentially, this reduction in WAG’s budget means that for every £100 currently spent by the Welsh Assembly Government, it will have to save £1.20 over the next ten months
This is something that tens of thousands of families and businesses across Wales have had to do during the last two years as a result of the recession.
If they have been able to do it, then surely WAG could, and should, be able do the same.