Which hat am I wearing now?

I leave the number crunchers to examine the finer detail of the reported extra £1billion allocated to the Northern Ireland budget over the next 4 years. Much more interesting is what the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, is telling his Welsh audience – an audience who will also receive an extra £1billion over the next 4 years..

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said, “This is lift-off in the run-up to May 3, demonstrating the benefit of partnership with Westminster. It’s a big boost for Rhodri in fighting this election.”

The report highlights a few important points

The money, spread over four years, comes as a result of a rise in spending in England – and Treasury rules dictate that a chunk of money comes down the M4 too.

Whoever wins power in May can spend the money as they wish.

On top of the Assembly Government’s £14bn annual budget, there will be £500,000 extra this year, with much bigger rises each year to hit £510m in 2010-11.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said, “This is lift-off in the run-up to May 3, demonstrating the benefit of partnership with Westminster. It’s a big boost for Rhodri in fighting this election.”

While the BBC report on the same news has some added detail

The total budget for Wales, currently £14bn, will increase in the coming year by just an extra half a million pounds, then in 2008-9 by £166m, in 2009-10 by £320m more and in 2010-11 by an additional £510m.

Mr Hain said the total package of budget measures was “brilliant news for the people of Wales, with the governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay working together for a prosperous Wales”.

One of the benefits of the Union no less.. I wonder if we’ll hear the same argument made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?

And there’s a classic example of how the same news gets sold to different audiences.

In the UTV report on this morning’s announcement we have this

Mr Brown also revealed that the government had signed a retail consortium agreement with major companies to provide possibly 5,000 jobs for the province over the next few years.

‘While Wales was told

In other Budget initiatives targeted at Wales, Mr Brown said 5,000 long-term unemployed would be given jobs in a deal with major retailers, an idea which was criticised by Plaid Cymru for only providing more low-paid jobs.

I wonder who will decide where those 5000 jobs will actually go?

And finally,

And there was a boost for campaigners hoping to compensate workers who lost their pension contributions when their companies went bust. The Financial Assistance Scheme, set up to help those who lost out, is being increased from £2.3bn to £8bn.

Who are those campaigners? Well the BBC reports these responses

The budget has been welcomed by the unions who represent the 800 Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) workers who lost pensions when the firm folded in 2002.

A compensation fund for workers losing their pensions has been quadrupled.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said increasing the fund to £8bn would provide justice.

“Workers such as those at ASW will now be able to claim back up to 80 per cent of their lost pensions to a maximum £26,000 a year, up from £12,000,” he said.

In a joint statement, trade unions Community and Amicus described the move as a “major step forward to achieving pensions justice”.

How is Mr Hain’s other campaign going, anyway?

And all that leave the only apparent new announcement that actually relates to the supposed pressure of the looming 26th March deadline as

He also confirmed that Sir David Varney, the former head of the Inland Revenue, had been asked to carry out a review of the different tax rates between Northern Ireland and the south.

Good work chaps..

, , ,

  • Ian

    Pete,

    You forgot to mention that the money offered to NI is conditional on devolution going ahead next Monday.

    Do you think he’d get away with making a (kind of) analogous statement about Wales e.g. You only get the money if Plaid Cymru don’t win?!?

  • Pete Baker

    Thing is, Ian, all the previously announced public spending plans are… public spending that has been planned for some time. I don’t buy the idea that those plans will be shelved.

    And there’s not a lot new here.

    From what I can tell, if there’s an assembly, they’ll decide what gets spent where from the budget, otherwise it’s a direct rule decision.. but those decisions will still be made.

    In my view there’s more substance in the threats about legislation on various issues.

  • Ian

    Sorry Pete, I missed out the word “supposedly” before “conditional”.

    What do you think about the latest proposal of an 8-week “honeymoon period” from next Monday where the Executive is appointed but doesn’t meet until May?

    It could only work in one of three ways:

    Governance stands still for eight weeks, the civil service is “headless”;

    The Ministers proceed to take decisions independent of each other for the 8 week period (which suggests it’s purely for the optics and it would be disingenuous of the DUP to claim they weren’t “sharing power with Sinn Fein” in such circumstances);

    or

    The British Government continue to run things for 8 weeks due to the primacy of Parliament (there’s a name for that that escapes me, the Something Principle??), in which case they could continue to introduce legislation such as the Irish Language Act even though devolution has returned!

    All to appease a few headbangers amongst the DUP Assembly group!

  • Pete Baker

    That would be futuring, Ian. ;O)

    And there’s an earlier thread today where that particular topic is the focus.

  • GavBelfast

    On ‘Hearts and Minds’, he’s just denied that Wales is getting extra money (he volunteered this without Noel Thompson even mentioning Wales).

    I can’t imagine there’s untruths in all this can you?

  • Ondine

    Do you think he’d get away with making a (kind of) analogous statement about Wales e.g. You only get the money if Plaid Cymru don’t win?!?

    The Prime Minister of Canada just said something very similar in relation to the current Québec election.

  • Ian

    “The British Government continue to run things for 8 weeks due to the primacy of Parliament (there’s a name for that that escapes me, the Something Principle??)”

    I was thinking of the Sewel Convention, which the Government would have to set aside for the 8 week period.

  • Dewi

    They keep on giving Wales money which we have spent on building a private sector of a size comparable to an Eastern Eurpoen state with a GDP still declining relative to England.

    Qualified for a second phase of Objective One after squandering the first lot.

    Rugby getting a bit better very recently though !