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A budget for prosperity?

October 3rd 2017

With the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2018/19 due to be unveiled today, Victoria Winckler sets out the acid tests of whether it is a budget of prosperity for all.

The Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2018/19 is due to be unveiled today. Not only is it the administration’s first budget to include provisions for raising revenues, aka taxes, it is also a chance to show that the Welsh Government is serious about prosperity for all.

What a government spends its money on affects us all: the roads you drive on, the schools your kids go to, the arts centre for that Saturday night out, and so on.

But public spending makes the most difference to people on low incomes. It not only provides services that low-income families simply can’t afford to buy on the open market, such as social housing or free health care. It also profoundly shapes their likelihood of living on a low income in the first place and people’s ability move up the income ladder.

We know, from our work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, what makes the biggest difference to reducing and, in time, eradicating poverty.

So here are my five acid tests of the draft Welsh Government budget:

1. Will it close the gap in educational attainment between the rich and poor?

Increasing the attainment of children from low income families will enable them to progress in FE and HE and in work. The gap in adult learning also needs to be narrowed, with a wide range of adult learning opportunities on offer. What will the budget do for children on free school meals?

2. Will it ensure a decent, warm home for everyone?

Thousands of people in Wales live without a decent home. What will the budget do to stimulate the creation of affordable homes that are warm, safe and secure?

3. Will it create full employment in all parts of Wales for all people?

The increases in employment have not reached all parts of Wales nor improved the pay and conditions of those at the bottom of the labour market. What will the budget do to stimulate the creation of decent jobs in the valleys and rural Wales?

4, Will it increase the healthy life expectancy of people in the most disadvantaged parts of Wales?

The difference in healthy life expectancy simply because of your income is one of the 21st century scandals. What is the Welsh Government budget going to do to improve the health of the least well-off?

5. Will it invest in the vital services that enable people to live as they want to?

People need the ‘enabling’ services of public transport, the internet, fair financial products and, if they need it, social care if they are to have everyday freedoms. What will the budget do to enable people to live independently?

Already there’s been the inevitable lobbying for sectional interests. The task now is to see if the Welsh Government has put its money where its mouth is – and deliver prosperity for the single parent in Pembrokeshire, the DPD driver in Dolgellau or the careworker in Cardiff.

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation/

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