Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Deal or No Deal?

Writing about the comprehensive spending review yesterday was a bit of a nightmare. You spend ages preparing for it, doing all the maths, thinking about an intro to the story - then it all goes out the window when you try to reconcile the competing claims about what it means for Wales.
Government spending, you see, is a relative concept.
First out of the starting blocks is the Wales Office proclaiming that Wales is getting a 2.4% spending increase, which means an extra £4.3 billion from the Treasury, which means we have never had it so good.
Then comes the opposition with its claims that this is the worst settlement since devolution, that actual growth is much slower than the Treasury claims and that Wales is going to be worse off because the Government is massaging the figures.
Last but not least comes the Assembly Government with a "don't panic" message. It's "very challenging", says Finance Minister Andrew Davies. But he knew it would be and remains confident he will be able to pay for all the One Wales promises.
His budget will grow from £14 billion this year to £16 billion by the time of the next election. To put that into perspective, in its first eight years the Assembly's annual budget doubled from £7 billion. Good deal? Bad deal? The Treasury pays your money and you takes your choice.

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