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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Spin or substance

I have just been listening to Peter Hain on Radio Wales attempting to defend the doubling of his Wales' Office budget next year from £4.68m to £8.44m. The fact that he felt it necessary to resort to the personal abuse of his critics spoke volumes.

He argues that he needs the money to pilot Assembly Legislative Competence Orders through Parliament and to develop policy, yet his budget falls back to £4.4m in 2010 at a time when arguably the Assembly Government will be up to full speed and pushing LCOs through in greater numbers than now.

Jenny Randerson, who highlighted the increase, said that she is shocked that so much additional money is going to the Wales Office when it's such a tough settlement for everyone else. "Council tax payers are facing a hike in bills, yet Peter Hain's department is getting a massive increase in its budget," she said.

Peter Hain is right that £3.76m is not a huge amount of money when compared to the £14 billion that the Welsh Government has to spend on services, but it is a substantial amount nevertheless and needs to be justified far more convincingly than he managed this morning.

Tellingly, Mr. Hain does not even seem to have convinced his Plaid Cymru allies of the efficacy of the increase. Their finance spokesman, Alun Ffred Jones, said he would be looking for clarification on how the Wales Office money will be spent; "At a time when the budget is so tight [in Wales], we need to ensure that value for money is achieved across all government departments."
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