Monday, 3 December 2007

Finance Committee Report

Following on from a meeting that took place on 27th November in the Senedd with the Minister for Finance, Andrew Davies AM, where the Finance Committee scrutinised the Minister in the light of the evidence it has received in relation to the draft Welsh Assembly Government budget - The committee's report has been published today.

The Minister presented his budget to the Committee at their earlier meeting on 8th November. Since then the Committee has taken evidence from Local Government, the NHS and other Assembly Committees.

The published report has been covered by the Western Mail and BBC Wales. The BBC summarises the detail as:

The finance committee's report said a lack of funds could affect the assembly government's ability to deliver One Wales coalition deal promises. It also has "grave concerns" the £15bn a year draft budget could hit core council services and urged a rethink. The committee, which is made up of a cross-party group of assembly members, has expressed fears that there may be a shortfall in funding for new capital projects. These include the building of new roads, schools or hospitals. Core council services could also be affected by the budget settlement, the report concluded.
The AMs fear that promises made in the One Wales agreement which led to the creation of the Labour Plaid Cymru coalition, could be threatened by the shortfall. They say it is also unclear how hundreds of millions of pounds in efficiency savings are to be met. The AMs also complain that the presentation of the budget created confusion, and have grave concerns that the local government settlement is inadequate to safeguard core services.
Alun Ffred Jones AM (one of two Plaid Cymru members on the committee) has already been on record to defend the costing of the One Wales' commitments, and rubbish the report.
Any work carried out by the Finance Committee has to be seen as fundamental in the way the Assembly carries out efficient and effective scrutiny. I find it difficult to believe that a member of this committee couldn't attend a key meeting due to a prior engagement and then has the nerve to criticize the work of the committee on publication of the report, when concerns should have been made much earlier. I have to agree with Peter Black AM:
In the circumstances I do not see how Plaid Cymru can wash their hands of the report's conclusions and nor should they. Effective scrutiny requires government backbenchers to put partisan considerations to one side so as to question the actions of the executive. That is a lesson that some Plaid Cymru members need to learn.
Alun Cairns AM has also talked prior to starting work on the scrutiny of this budget of "failure of scrutiny in past Assembly Committees and the need for all this to change with the current set up"

Following on from an earlier post, we shall now see how the Minister and the government backers from the backbenches respond to these criticisms when the draft budget is debated in plenary on 11th December 2007.
Update: Western Mail, 4 December
Alun Davies AM:
It’s a very curious position to adopt, to make these criticisms today when the report is published. He’s had the same opportunities I have had to raise issues, discuss it, and question witnesses.
Mr Jones did not attend the final meeting of the committee prior to publication on Wednesdayn, although Plaid AM Mohammad Asghar was present. A revised draft was circulated at lunchtime the next day and final version circulated on Friday afternoon.


Anonymous 3 December 2007 at 13:59  

The Finance Committee is the most important scrutiny committee by a country mile, it makes me wonder why One Wales WAG allowed the capable Cairns to chair. The report makes a number of absolutely crucial points, which Andrew Davies totally failed to face down at committee.

It is an absolute disgrace that Alun Ffred Jones should come out against the report having refused to attend the meetings. If he had any wit or intelligence and genuinely opposed the Committee's paper, he should have produced a minority report. Not turning up and then bitching on the radio is beneath contempy really. Doesn't he come from a party that wants grown up government for Wales?

Ffreddie Fflintoffff 3 December 2007 at 14:39  

"Doesn't he come from a party that wants grown up government for Wales?"

No. He's a Nat.

Anonymous 3 December 2007 at 17:48  

AFJ should know better than this. It's not as if he's a new AM.

Anonymous 3 December 2007 at 20:22  

see the labour boys are out

Anonymous 3 December 2007 at 22:59  

Illiterate Labour socket puppets ... everyone knows there's only one F in Freddie.

fffffreddie fffffffffflintofffffffffffffff 4 December 2007 at 10:13  

Anon 22.59 - You are joking, right?

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