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What should be the priorities for the Welsh Government as they set their budget for 2020/21?

July 12th 2019

Steffan Evans reflects on his visit to the National Assembly for Wales’ Finance Committee’s stakeholder meeting in Aberystwyth

We may only be a quarter of the way through the 2019/20 financial year but attention has already turned to what will be included in the Welsh Government’s budget for the 2020/21 financial year. There is currently much uncertainty surrounding the budget, with Brexit and the political turmoil at Westminster making it unclear exactly how much funds the Welsh Government will have to invest in public services. With the Welsh Government budget for 2019/20 being in excess of £18bn however, it is clear that the sums involved are likely to be significant.

It is in this context that the Bevan Foundation were delighted to be invited to a stakeholder meeting by the National Assembly for Wales’s Finance Committee in Aberystwyth in late June. It is the role of the committee to scrutinise the Welsh Government’s draft budget and the aim of the event was to allow committee members to hear from stakeholders from all over Wales about their priorities and concerns so that the committee can best scrutinise the draft budget for 2020/21 when it is brought before them later in the year.

It is our view that poverty should be at the centre of the Welsh Government budget for 2020/21. Nearly a quarter of the Welsh population live in poverty. Despite various policy initiatives the problem has worsened over recent years with approximately 40,000 more people living in poverty in 2015-16 to 2017-18 than in 2007-08 to 2009-10.

Poverty does not only damage the lives of families directly affected by it, but it also has an impact on broader Welsh society. In 2016 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimated that poverty is linked to additional public spending of around £3.6 billion in Wales. Solving poverty should not only be a priority for the Welsh Government as it is the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense.

The Bevan Foundation welcomes the renewed focus on solving poverty since December 2018.  To put this commitment into action, however, we believe that the Welsh Government should make solving poverty a key priority for the next and future budgets. Whilst not all policy levers are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, the Welsh Government is able to determine outcomes through its expenditure as well as its policies and legislation.

Ahead of the event, the Bevan Foundation developed a briefing note setting out the principles and the investment decisions that would underpin the Welsh Government’s budget for 2020/21 if it were serious about putting its commitment into action through its budget. We will be publishing this document shortly.

We greatly appreciated having the opportunity to make this case before members of the committee and other stakeholders. Attending the event also provided an opportunity for us to learn about some of the challenges and opportunities facing other sectors and organisations as they operate in a difficult economic environment. By working together, we believe it is possible to take action to solve poverty in Wales.

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