The Welsh Government released details of its new budget to the public today, including funding plans for various initiatives such as combatting climate change, providing free school meals, and improving the safety of coal tips.
The amount of funding granted to the Welsh Government, £18 billion, is – at base – the largest amount ever received. However, until the UK government announces otherwise, emergency COVID funding for Wales is due to end next year, bringing the total amount below what was available this year. Wales has received a total of about £8 billion of COVID relief funds since March 2020, and was recently granted another £270 million to help deal with Omicron.
The new budget has an environmental emphasis, with a green investment of £160 million in revenue and a total of £1.8 billion capital being committed over the next 3 years. The budget promises to allocate funds to national forestry – earlier this year the Welsh Government announced plans to plant 86 million trees by 2030 – as well as protecting biodiversity, decarbonising housing, and investing in renewable energy.
The budget allocates £4.5 million and a total capital investment of £44.4 million to the “remediation, reclamation and repurposing” of coal tips in Wales, to improve their safety and reduce the chance of slippage. Wales has almost 2,500 coal tips, which predate devolution. In its October spending review, the UK Government decided against allocating funds to improving coal tip sites.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said of the budget:
“This budget will leave Wales in a better place to manage the effects of the climate and nature emergency that are already affecting so many communities in Wales, and will only affect more in the future. We can never lose sight of the importance of protecting our planet.”
The budget also promises to provide a £116 million non-domestic rates relief for businesses in sectors heavily affected by COVID-19. The scheme will be capped at £110,000 per business across Wales.
Rebecca Evans said:
“To ensure businesses in Wales are sufficiently supported, and reflecting the nature of our tax base, we have invested an additional £20 million on top of the consequential funding received from the UK Government. This is in addition to our permanent relief schemes that provide over £240m of relief every year.”
The Welsh Government has also made several policy agreements with Plaid Cymru, including a promise to ensure free school meals for all primary school children in Wales.
Other notable fund allocations include:
- £1.3 billion to the NHS
- £0.75 billion to local authorities
- £1.6 billion to providing good quality housing
- £1 billion for social housing
- £61 million in employability support for young people
- £900 million capital funding for school building renovations
- £30 million for childcare provisions