Welsh Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Mark Williams MP reacts to today's first Conservative majority budget.
This budget fails to offer the positive vision that Wales desperately needs. When today’s budget fireworks fizzle out, thousands of public sector workers, families and young people face another four years struggling to get by.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats wanted to hear measures setting out how we stop Wales’ economy from lagging behind the rest of the UK. We wanted to see plans for a greener UK and policies to help people make the very best of their lives. Sadly, these were lacking from today’s budget.
Rather than a positive vision, we heard how the Tories plan to strip away support for thousands of people living in Wales. Clearly the nasty party is shifting up a gear. The Welsh Lib Dems believe changes to welfare have to be fair and protect the most vulnerable: this budget does neither.
I am very concerned to see the loss of housing benefits for 18 – 21 year olds, which will really hit the finances of young people hard, and I worry for those who do not have a family network to fall back on. If you’re looking to get ahead, and make a start in life, this Tory budget hits young people hard.
It is also worrying to see cuts on Child Tax Credits. These are cuts which liberal Democrats blocked in Government. Tax credits have provided precious and targeted support to millions of families across Wales and the rest of the UK for many years; and in Ceredigion alone, 7,700 children are living in families that rely on them. I am concerned that this move will jeopardise children’s future.
In terms of funds to Wales, it’s all very well the Chancellor declaring his commitment to a minimum funding floor, yet still we have no details on this whatsoever. We must now have detail about where this funding floor will be set and when it will become a reality. No ifs, no buts, Wales must have fair funding.
The Tories have quietly pushed back plans for tax free childcare, announced by the Lib Dems last year. This was due to start in 2015 and is now delayed until 2017. This will be a huge disappointment for many Welsh working families.
The Living Wage announcement is a welcome step. However I urge the Government to reconsider their exclusion of under 25s as it is simply unfair to treat people so differently just because of their age. Of course, the same issue applies to the Tory’s plan to withdraw housing support for under 21s. This is an outrageous discrimination and they should be ashamed.