2018 Budget: ‘No right’ to enforce spending on the M4
Chancellor Phillip Hammond is not allowed to force Assembly Members to spend additional money on the M4, Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said.
In the budget announced on Monday, British ministers suggested that the Welsh Government could lend an additional £ 300m if the money was spent on the M4 relief road.
Mr Drakeford said that choosing AMs would be how to spend any new money.
According to the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, the money is available to build the new road.
On Monday, the UK Government said they would support the provision of the M4 relief road in south Wales by reviewing whether it would be willing to approve lending powers of up to £ 300m in addition to the Welsh Government to pay for the “crucial” .
The announcement came as part of Mr Hammond’s budget, which said that £ 550m would be available to the Welsh Government as a central grant over the next three years – although Mr Drakeford argues that a large proportion of the money is not new.
£ 332m of 2019/20 funding will be due to additional expenditure on the health service announced by Theresa May back in June.
The Welsh Government already has the right to borrow up to £ 1bn, but the objectors of the scheme believe that committing to this project can claim most of this money, for years to come.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Rado Wales’s Good Morning Wales program that he was aware of the loan lending review for months.
“The choice of the Welsh Assembly will be how borrowing powers are being used, not the chancellor in England or also the Secretary of Wales,” he said.
“If the lending powers increase, as they should, then those decisions should be in the hands of the Assembly.”
The Welsh Government has received the findings of an independent investigation into the possibility of constructing the M4 relief road, which estimates the cost would be more than £ 1.4bn.
No decision has been made on the plan so far, with AMs expected to hold a vote in December.
Mr Cairns said that if the plan did not go ahead, “there would be no lack of funding” but “a political decision from the Welsh Government” would be behind that.
“If the political decision is there, then it would have to be explained to the business community that has been calling for it for 20 years.”
The budget is ‘ridiculous’
Mr Drakeford dismissed the idea that the period of stress was over, adding that the extra money earmarked for the Welsh Government was “ridiculous”.
According to the Finance Secretary, over half of the extra £ 550m has been announced ‘back in July.
He said that £ 365m had already been included in the Welsh Government’s budget plans, and that UK ministers made decisions that meant that £ 169m of it contributed to salary increases and pension payments.
Mr Cairns argued that the budget was a “significant boost” for the Welsh Government, and that they had seen an increase of 4.1% in their budget since 2015.
He added: “Much of the £ 554m for this year and next year, and this is a significant boost that the Government did not have before.”