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Finance Committee calls for transparency on Welsh Government COVID-19 spending

12/11/2020

As part of the Senedd Finance Committee’s work in holding the Welsh Government to account, the Committee has today published its report looking at the Welsh Government’s Second Supplementary Budget. This supplementary budget covers many of the recent announcements on additional funding for NHS services focused on managing the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The report - Scrutiny of Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2020-21 - is available here

Future planning

Earlier this year the UK Government announced it was cancelling its UK Autumn Budget. However, the UK Government will be undertaking a one year spending review. The Welsh Government says the lack of certainty over longer term funding makes it harder for it to plan ahead for services such as the NHS in Wales.

The Senedd Finance Committee is concerned about the lack of certainty provided for the Welsh Government. It recommends that, despite the uncertainty arising from the new spending review arrangement, the Welsh Government should aim to provide clarity for stakeholders on budgets beyond one-year, in its draft budget 2021-22.

UK Government coronavirus funding guarantee

In July (£1.2bn) and October (£400m) the UK Government announced funding guarantees for the devolved governments in order to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Committee welcomes these funding guarantees for the Welsh Government. However, regular announcements from the UK Government mean the picture around COVID-19 funding is confusing for the devolved administrations, as there is still a lack of clarity on what this means for them. When a new announcement is made, after the guarantee has been issued, it is often unclear whether this is included within the guarantee or is in addition to the guarantee. The Committee is concerned about this way of working and its impacts on the Welsh Government’s planning and spending priorities for services and organisations.

The Committee’s report provides recommendations with some detail on spending, including calls on the Welsh Government to:

  • Provide a breakdown of the costs of decommissioning field hospitals

  • Provide further detail on any subsequent funding for Track, Trace and Protect

  • Provide further details of the financial support for transport providers

“Both the UK and Welsh Governments are focused on the coronavirus pandemic and huge amounts of money are being allocated and spent in a very short space of time. We’re all keen to support Welsh public services, businesses and citizens during this worrying time. However, the Committee is concerned about the lack of clarity about how public money is being spent and we’re keen to get more detail. In particular, we want to know how money for the NHS is being spent, including the track, trace and protect system, and the large sums of money supporting public transport providers.

“The way money flows between the UK and Welsh Governments lacks transparency and  is unhelpful for the Welsh Government to plan the funding of services and organisations. The Welsh Government needs certainty and consistency in order to plan and spend properly. Every announcement from the UK Government,  has a potential financial impact on the Welsh budget too – for example the lockdowns in England.

“The Committee is strongly urging the UK and Welsh Governments to work better together from now on to give public bodies, and everyone who relies on public funding, some clarity and certainty to ensure money is spent effectively.” Llyr Gruffydd MS, Chair of the Finance Committee

The report - Scrutiny of Welsh Government Second Supplementary Budget 2020-21 - is available here 

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