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Monday, October 25, 2004

Spinning the budget

This is not a sentence I envisage using too often but David Davies, the Tory AM for Monmouth, is absolutely right. The way that the Labour Assembly Government has sought to spin their budget is blatant and outrageous.

By flat-lining all forward budgets last year and then using these as the base budget for each of the next three years they have made increases look bigger than they are and have effectively double-counted and triple-counted the same money. Furthermore, whilst the increases in cash for subjects such as early-years learning are to be welcomed it should not be overlooked that some major budget lines (over half of them in fact) have no increase at all over the three year period, effectively delivering a real-term cut.

The Education Minister is currently accusing the AUT of misrepresenting her budget for Higher Education on the basis that she has an unallocated and unspecified sum in the reserves for use in 2007-8 to deal with the top-up fees issue. The point she is missing is that in the two intervening years HE institutions will be competing with their English counterparts for staff without the resources they need to do this. What is worse is that because the English HEIs have certainty about the income they will get from top-up fees they are able to speculate accordingly. The Welsh HEIs have none of that certainty and no extra cash to make up for it. Thus Welsh Higher Education loses out on both counts.


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