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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Budgeting in the real world

We are in for an interesting few weeks in the Assembly. The opposition parties flexed their muscles again yesterday in rejecting the Government's Business Statement and forcing a debate on the E.coli crisis. Today it is likely that they will force the Labour Administration into holding some form of public inquiry on this issue.

Also yesterday the Government published its draft budget for the next three years. It was quickly noted by the media and politicians that there were a number of interesting omissions from that document. First up was the failure to include any money to meet the Higher Education funding gap between Wales and England. This is despite the fact that this was a commitment coming out of the deal struck on student support earlier this year.

Also missing was any further help for Council taxpayers who are faced with larger bills due to rebanding, a Labour experiment that was subsequently abandoned in England because it was such a disaster here. It has to be said as well that the amount of extra cash for local government itself is largely inadequate and that many Councils will be struggling to make ends meet next year in the face of this allocation.

The Western Mail focussed on the free school breakfasts issue in its coverage. They noted that the budget only provided enough money to enable 80% of primary schools to participate. This is despite the fact that Labour's key pledge in 2003 was that there will be "free breakfasts for all primary school kids". They also questioned the clinical priority of reducing prescription charges further which, they said 'seems to reflect distorted priorities in the health service where hospital waiting times remain significantly longer than England.'

There are a number of other issues arising from this budget not least the need for more front-line funding for schools and investment in school buildings. It is inevitable that the opposition will use its voting clout to seek to amend it. That will be a first for the Welsh Assembly and how the government responds will be instructive to say the least.
Can I ask how can you force the Welsh Assembly Government to hold a public inquiry when the opposition parties refused to delegate the functions under the Inquiries act 2005 to the First Minister?

Isn’t this a case of the opposition shooting themselves in the foot?
No Martyn, because the power has not been delegated to the First Minister it is retained by the Assembly itself. So a resolution of the Assembly can decide to hold a public inquiry.
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So, therefore, you won’t “force” the “Labour administration” to hold a public inquiry, as you suggested, because the WAG have already announced that they will hold an inquiry. But as Brian Gibbons stated yesterday, they are unable to call a public inquiry because you, and the rest of the opposition, refused to delegate the authority for them to do so last week.

The only thing the opposition will do today, as you indicate, will be to give them the go-ahead to hold a public inquiry.
You need to re-read what I wrote Martyn. WAG have said that their inquiry will not be in public. We however will be seeking to force them to change that position. We can do that as the Assembly has retained the powers under the Inquiries Act rather than delegate it to the First Minister.
forgive me if im having a dull moment - its already been a long day.

i was under the impression that rhodri morgan said yesterday that there will be an inquiry.

so where does the forcing them to have one come in?
It is the public element that is being forced on them though their position seems to be changing hourly.
Don't want to sound picky but the heading shouts out. Correct the spelling of budgeting. Wouldn't like the press to think you can't spell.

I should talk but you are more in the public eye than me.

Good article though
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