The Welsh Secretary said the Welsh Government had been “particularly dishonest” and Mark Drakeford “very irresponsible” on the issue of UK Government funding.
He said there was an effort to ‘deliberately mix up’ positive economic stories about the support the UK government was giving to Wales.
“I think it’s very irresponsible of the Prime Minister to potentially damage the economic recovery on the back of a political opportunity,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister said Wales had been denied money promised to it following the UK Government’s plan to cut energy costs in England.
This claim was rejected by the UK government, saying Wales would receive £180million under the Barnett formula.
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans later clarified that the £180million increase had been offset by a £189million reduction in the amount the Treasury said it would receive in January elsewhere due of a reduced need for Covid restrictions.
Speaking to the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was asked by Chairman Stephen Crabb MP why the figures were being disputed “when you are dealing with figures which should have a factual basis?”
Simon Hart replied that there is “always a bit of politics involved” and “I don’t think anyone in this room will be surprised by that”.
“I think in this case the Welsh Government has been particularly dishonest in trying to confuse two totally separate issues,” the Welsh secretary said.
‘It’s not often that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury instantly takes to the airwaves in a fit of genuine outrage and frustration over something that was a positive story for families and businesses in Wales deliberately confused as a result of political intervention.
He said it was “absolutely indisputable” that the £180m was fresh money Wales would receive, but money pledged for Covid restrictions “it is also indisputable that the estimates are estimates, and always have been”.
“They always had the caveat, ‘Don’t base your budgets on these estimates, because they will change.’ Due to the success of the vaccination program and our early exit from some of the covid restrictions, these estimates for healthcare costs have been reduced, which is something to be happy about.
“As a result, the [money made available to Wales] was reduced in a similar proportion. This is not about depriving people of the money that was owed to them; this
is the result of a successful vaccination program that has saved thousands of jobs and thousands of businesses.
“Confusing one with two is nothing more than political and actually harms job creation and job retention opportunities in Wales.
“I think it’s very irresponsible for the Prime Minister to potentially damage the economic recovery on the back of a political opportunity.”
On February 15, the Welsh Government announced a cost of living payment of £150 and an additional £200 for low-income households through the winter fuel payment next winter.
The £150 cost of living payment will be paid to all households who live in properties in the AD municipal tax brackets, as well as beneficiaries of the municipal tax reduction scheme in all brackets.
Announcing the support, Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said the additional support was being provided despite “the lack of additional funding” from the Treasury, which she called a “disappointing move by the UK government”.
She claimed that despite this, the Welsh Government had gone ‘above and beyond’ in providing support to households.
“We believe the action we are taking will make a real difference, but people still face challenges,” she said. “These major levels are in the hands of the UK government and we don’t have them here in Wales.
“We need to see a change in approach from Westminster. We need to see them step in to support people. Let’s share some of that wealth with people who are struggling to pay their bills.
“We will continue to advocate with the UK government to change its approach.”
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