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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Decision time on the budget

With just over 24 hours to go before we vote on the Assembly budget it appears that the three opposition parties and the two independents are resolute in their determination to vote it down. What happens after that nobody knows. We are entering uncharted territory.

It has to be said that this determination was not reached without some wobbles on the part of Plaid Cymru. Rhodri Morgan has an additional £9.3m to spend as a result of Gordon Brown's statement last week and I understand that Plaid were asked if they would abstain on the budget if all of this money was put into education. Initially, they agreed but after meetings with the other party leaders they changed their mind and took the same view as us that it was not enough to do what needs to be done in our schools and universities.

I have been told that the Plaid Cymru group has now supported their leader in agreeing to oppose the budget so for now everything is hunky dory. We will see if that is still the case tomorrow when the vote is taken. Let us hope that every member is especially careful to ensure that they press their button at the right time and in the right order.

Update: Mike German has just issued a statement in which he hints that AMs should come back next week to get the budget through before Christmas:

“If Rhodri Morgan can find no extra money for education beyond the £9.3m announced in the pre-budget review, then his government’s budget remains unacceptable.

“In these circumstances the Welsh Liberal Democrats will have no option but to vote against the budget tomorrow. If, as we expect, the budget is lost we would expect him to return in a few days with a new budget for the Assembly to consider.

“We remain committed to getting a budget passed before Christmas and would encourage the First Minister to re-open negotiations, and to recall the Assembly next week to get the job done.”

I dont have any plans next week for my Christmas recess that cannot be changed but I wonder how many members will have to cancel holiday arrangements if this comes to pass.

Further update: Plaid Cymru have now announced that they are prepared to break with the other opposition parties and negotiate separately with the government to get the Labour budget through.

If Plaid are willing to accept less than the whole amount of money for schools, that is something they will have to justify to themselves and the electorate. The other opposition parties will continue to oppose any budget which fails to give a fair deal to our schools.
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