- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Latest News, Press Releases
MIKE HEDGES WELCOMES WELSH GOVERNMENT BUDGET
Speaking from his Morriston Office, Local Swansea East MS Mike Hedges said…. ‘ This is a good budget for Wales, a good budget for Swansea and a good budget for some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our Communities. I welcome its commitment to extra money for the Health Service and for Early Intervention to provide the best start in life for our children.
I also welcome the 3 year spending review which offers clarity for future years. It is always a worry for a lot of organisations about will projects and areas of work be funded In the future; this budget offers clarity.
We do need to make sure that we are getting value for money from our budget and that is why I called for better management in the public sector to ensure we are improving efficiency and effective delivery of budget objectives.
I am proud to support this budget’
Mike Hedges MS – This debate would be improved if we had alternative proposals, even if only at the level of ministerial budgets, from the Conservatives, who weren’t willing to accept any interventions, and Plaid Cymru. It’s easy to spend additional money. Perhaps you ought to say where you want to take it from.329
I will support the budget, but the key question is: what will be achieved for the additional expenditure? I welcome the announcement by the UK Government of its multi-year budget settlement, and I’m pleased to see that the Welsh Government took the opportunity of a three-year spending review to give funding certainty to organisations, providing provisional allocations for 2023-24 and 2024-25. There will be people working in the voluntary sector who don’t have their Christmas present this year of a redundancy notice because they don’t know if they are going to be funded into the following year.330
I further welcome that the allocation provided over the three-year period has given the Welsh Government the opportunity to provide significant increases in revenue funding in 2022-23. However, the increases in 2023-24 and 2024-25 are far more modest, with some organisations having their budgets frozen in cash terms at the 2022-23 level. I welcome the over-commitment of capital expenditure, because it should avoid capital underspends as schemes slip during the year. It’s inevitable that capital schemes will slip during the year.331
It is easy to spend money. The challenge to Government is to spend it beneficially. I am disappointed that Welsh Government has not used the five Es. Effectiveness: was the expenditure effective in the previous year and did it achieve what was required? Efficiency: were resources used efficiently last year? If not, what is going to be done to ensure efficient use of resources this year? Equality: is the budget expenditure fair to all groups? I heard Jayne Bryant earlier talking about children; I’m sure that somebody is going to mention women, and somebody else is going to mention older people later on this debate. Equity: is the budget fair to all of Wales, not just for one year but over several years? And environment: what is the expected effect of the budget on carbon and biodiversity? 332
Whilst the future generations Act deals with the last one, the first four need addressing. Why are certain areas in the UK, North America and Europe economically successful, with high wages, high skills and high productivity? They provide the most important economic tool—not giving people bribes to come; education is the most important economic tool. If you need to provide financial incentives to companies to bring branch units, they don’t want to come. Provide the research capacity in universities, and provide a highly skilled workforce, and clusters of companies will start forming. Then, the economy will grow, and wages will increase.333
Also, investing in early years and education remains one of the most powerful levers for tackling inequality, to embed prevention and invest in our future generations, so that no-one is left behind. With the universal provision of free school meals in state primary schools, the use of free school meals as an indicator of additional educational funding will obviously disappear. I think we need to know what is going to replace that.334
Turning to efficiency, the health service needs bringing—. I was going to say into the twenty-first century, but certainly into the last bit of the twentieth century. Prescriptions are printed, signed, hand-delivered; why can’t we have e-prescribing? Why can’t they be filled in online with an online signature and then sent to the relevant pharmacist? There may be concerns about certain drugs, especially opium-based drugs, but safeguards for those can be built in. One of the things that surprised many of us at the health committee—and I’m sure Russell George is going to mention it later—is that fax machines are not only still used but are still being bought in the health service.335
What are the health boards doing to increase energy efficiency? With health boards getting extra money, how are they going to improve productivity in hospitals? We seem to have this idea that you just give the money and everything will be fine. Well, you give the money and everything isn’t fine, and we need to address why it isn’t fine, and make sure that in the future it is fine. And just saying, ‘We need more money for health’ or ‘We need more money for something else’, that’s fine, it’s easy, it’s good politics; it is bad economics. I think that what we need to do is ensure that the money is spent effectively and efficiently, and we know that buying fax machines probably doesn’t come on the list of spending that’s either effective or efficient.336
I have a prediction, which I hope is wrong, that the health boards will get the increase and the share given to primary healthcare will again decrease, so primary healthcare’s percentage of health expenditure will go down. The Welsh Government have created large organisations such as NRW, Betsi Cadwaladr and the Welsh ambulance service; at what point does the Government decide they are not working and need breaking up into smaller units? Will this budget allow that to happen? 337
Finally, we need to solve the problem of operational management in the public sector, to improve efficiency and effectiveness. We need to concentrate on outcomes, and far less on inputs and how much money we’re spending. What are we getting for our bucks?