That’s the message of Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy & Transport Ieuan Wyn Jones as he revealed the Department of Economy & Transport’s budget for the next three years.
The Department covers areas such as business support, economic development and roads and rail. Its budget for the current financial year (2010/11) is £973,730,000.
The budgets for the next three financial years will be:
- 2011/12 total £903,042,000 (decrease of 7.3%)
- 2012/13 total £875,843,000 (decrease of 3.0%)
- 2013/2014 total £846,920,000 (decrease of 3.3%).
The changes represent a cash reduction in the departments’ revenue budget of 2.4% (£10,253,000). Capital budgets are being reduced by 31% (£116,557,000) over the next three years. However, Mr Jones pledges to utilise all available alternatives, especially EU funding, in order to deliver benefits to Welsh communities.
Mr Jones said,
“There is no getting around the scale of the cuts in funding from the Westminster government. The Welsh Assembly Government is already underfunded and the decisions of the UK Government mean our overall budget next year will be £900m lower than the budget this year. Over the next four years, this will be a £1.8 billion cut.
“We have to reflect this reality within my Department and are working with what we have been given. Despite the severe cuts to Wales’ budget, we have been preparing for tough times and adapting our approach. As a result Wales is open for business and this Assembly Government is geared up to support the Welsh economy so it can grow and create jobs.
“Earlier this year I launched a new approach to economic development – ‘Economic Renewal: a new direction’ and this is reflected in our budget. With this new policy our focus is on investing in infrastructure, research & development and growth industries to improve the conditions for business with the aim of creating jobs.
“For example, we will invest in major improvements to our IT connectivity throughout Wales and we’ll ensure that Next Generation broadband is available to all businesses by 2016. Investing in infrastructure is important as it will allow our businesses and people to compete in the global economy. Also, in the next financial year we have £16 million to invest in the six areas that we have identified as having the greatest potential for our economy - Creative industries, ICT, Energy and Environment, Advanced material and manufacturing, Life Sciences and Financial and Professional services. This is where we see real potential for Wales to grow.
“Wales’ road, rail and bus network will continue to receive investment. This budget sees our continued support for sustainable travel and public transport, with these two areas receiving the majority of our investment. We will be maintaining our commitment to the Sustainable Travel Towns initiative, the Welsh Transport Entitlement Card and the re-opening of rail lines. We want to create an integrated transport system that allows people to get travel easily using public transport and rely less on their cars.
“I will continue to fund our popular and successful concessionary fares scheme, which gives older people the free use of their local bus servicers - a key policy of this Assembly Government. The Safe Routes in Communities programme and support for rural transport will continue. These initiatives not only improve our communities, but also assist the more vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society.
“When it comes to the development of our transport infrastructure we have been seeking out alternative sources of support. Over £140 million of EU funding has already been secured and we’re working to secure a further £116 million of capital funds from Europe up to 2015. These funds will assist with the delivery of our National Transport Plan, helping to offset the effects of the budget cuts.
“However, the financial constraints we now find ourselves in mean that in the coming years some road projects will not be going ahead. Tough decisions will have to be made and we will have to carefully asses what needs to be prioritised.”
Key points from the Department of Economy & Transport’s budget include:
- £16 million in 2011/12 for new investment in the six key sectors
- £13.7 million in 2011/12 to support entrepreneurship and support services for business
- £3 million a year for the Regional Priority Fund to provide funding for regionally important projects
- £8 million a year for direct support to university Research & Development projects
- More than £3.8 million a year to support Major Events
- Funds have been allocated to support ICT infrastructure and next generation broadband - £11 million 2011/12, £17 million 2012/13, £27 million 2013/14.
Following the launch of ‘Economic Renewal: a new direction’, the Department for Economy & Transport has been restructured to deliver the new policy. This has included an overall reduction of 280 staff and changes to the property portfolio. All finance provided by the Department is moving to a repayable model so it can be reinvested to support more businesses.