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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Budget deal is reached

So the reports were true and the opposition parties and the government finally came up with a deal on the budget today that will put millions of pounds into key public services. In all the new budget provides:

Council tax – £100 for pensioner households in 2006/7 whose homes have risen by more than one council tax band due to revaluation.

A further £10m will be made available over two years for pensioners to provide home energy schemes to cut household bills and for improved security on their properties.

Higher education funding – an extra £5mn in the first year to help close the funding gap between Welsh and English universities, with a minimum of another £3m in year two.

Small schools – a £4.1m fund for small schools across Wales.

School nutrition - £3.1m to provide for more nutritious school dinners and healthier food in school vending machines.

School funding – schools to be allowed to retain efficiency savings.

Rail services – a commitment to pre-feasibility studies to improve services on routes throughout Wales, plus the purchase of additional rolling stock for the Aberystwyth-Cambrian coast-Shrewsbury and Heart of Wales lines.

All of this is very welcome and provides a good example of how cross-party agreement can be reached without the need for formal coalitions. I am particularly pleased by the deal for education, which has always been a high priority for the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
So, a pensioner who is a retired lawyer, who has a very nice pension and personal savings, receives a very nice £100 cheque thank you very much from the Welsh Assembly Government.

You then have a pensioner, let’s say a retired school dinner lady. She doesn’t have a very large pension, little in personal savings, and she, too, get’s £100 from the Welsh Assembly Government.

Is it me, or does anyone else think this scenario is unfair? Surely the retired dinner lady should receive more than the retired lawyer? Some would argue that giving £100 to the retired lawyer is throwing money away, because it’s quite obvious that the retired lawyer will have far more financial security than the retired dinner lady?

I’m delighted to see extra funding for small schools. As a governor in a small school, this will be very much appreciated. I wonder now if Swansea council will use this money to keep open the small schools they want to close.
Of course this £100 is similar to the £250 per pensioner promised by Gordon Brown next month. That is not means-tested either. You need to take this complaint to your Labour colleagues Martyn.

If a small school is unsustainable then there is very little that can be done to keep it open. The small schools fund is to give Councils additional options. How they use it is up to them.
why, is it only the pensioners who get help with increased council tax rises.

my dad hasn't had a cost of living increase in his wages since i was nine (12 years ago) how is he suppost to keep up with increased payments?
It’s not a complaint; it’s an observation.

The proposed budget is a very good one. The point I’m making, is that in an ideal, socially just society, the most vulnerable and needy would receive a larger share of the money made available than those who are quite well off.

Of course, I’m quite sure if the Labour Welsh Assembly Government would have presented this proposal, with means testing attached, it would have been shot down by the opposition parties…so my observations would have little relevance.
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