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Timing the Cuts

October 13th 2010

It has long been known that the UK Comprehensive Spending Review will be published on 20 October. We have also known that the Assembly will not be able to set the 2011-12 budget until after the CSR has been announced. What we didn’t know until recently, however, was what timescale the Assembly would work to. But clarity now comes in the form of an amendment to the Standing Orders of the Assembly so that a temporary change to the annual budget timetable has taken effect.

These changes will mean that the Welsh Assembly Government must lay a draft budget before the Assembly setting out the amounts of resources and cash which the Government proposes to use for the next financial year (and provisional amounts for the subsequent two years) no later than 17 November. Both scrutiny committees and the Finance Committee will then have the opportunity to input at the draft budget stage of the budget process.

Scrutiny Committees may consider the draft budget and make recommendations to the Finance Committee and will have up to three weeks after the draft budget has been laid to do so i.e. before the Assembly breaks for Christmas recess on 10 December. This is often the key period for external interaction and lobbying. It is usually a frantic time: expect extra pressure this year. Having processed this information, the Finance Committee must consider the draft budget and report to the Assembly no later than the 11 January 2011. 

The debate on the draft budget must then take place in the Assembly no later than the 18 January. Amendments may be tabled at this stage, provided they do not alter the overall amounts proposed within the draft budget. Following this stage, WAG must then table the annual budget motion on or before 1 February 2011.  At this stage in the budget process, the budget priorities and allocations will have been finalised.  No amendments may be tabled to an annual budget motion and Members options are limited to abstaining, or voting to support or oppose the motion as a whole. 

So that’s some dates for your diaries…

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