Our Principles about Fair Play Can Direct Our Priorities in Face of Cuts; THURSDAY ESSAY: It Is a Budget That Puts Wales' Needs First, Argues Jane Hutt, the Minister for Business and Budget

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Byline: Jane Hutt

YESTERDAY I published our draft Budget for the next three years. This has been the worst budget settlement since devolution and preparing for this Budget has been a true test of this One Wales Government.

I believe that the plans we have published show that we are a responsible Government, that has responded to the challenge and I confirm once again that Wales will play its role in bringing down the UK deficit.

It is a Budget that sets us in good stead to stand up for the people of Wales, backing their families, communities and the Welsh economy against the backdrop of the deepest spending cuts in a generation and the worst settlement of all the devolved administrations.

I can say this because we have been clear, as a Government, about our principles and priorities which have helped shape our budgets when they were growing - we have taken a distinct Welsh approach.

We have a responsibility to protect our priorities and safeguard those services against the onslaught of cuts which are too deep and too fast and threaten the social and economic fabric of Wales.

Now, more than ever, we are clear that our principles can direct our priorities.

Those principles are about fair play - chwarae teg - protecting the vulnerable, our children and elderly people with an increase of pounds 35m by 2013-14 - a 3% cash uplift for social services - identified as a key area for concern in our equality impact assessment and from local government identification of their pressures.

And I want to put the record straight about our spending on health. I have already announced increasing spend on social services. I am not hiding that in the health and social services budget as the UK Government appears to have done. The increase in resources will go to local government as the deliverers of local services with statutory responsibilities.

We have been able to protect the entire health and social services budget from cash reductions - the only area of Assembly Government expenditure to be safeguarded in this way in 2011-2. It means that revenue funding for NHS delivery - by far the largest budget line in the Health Service - will be higher in 2011-12 than in 2010-11.

But it also means we stay true to our commitment to invest in the educational needs of our children and young people.

Yes, that means continuing to roll out the Foundation Phase, continue our investment in Flying Start in our most disadvantaged communities and supporting the budgets for schools, both within the Department for Children Education Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) and through local authorities, to a near 5% growth over the next three years. …