The Welsh Government has announced a three-year budget it says will “support the Wales of today and shape the Wales of tomorrow”.

Setting out how it intends to fund its Programme for Government from April 2022, the draft budget will focus on the financing of public services and the country’s response to the climate and nature emergency.

An additional £1.3 billion of direct funding will be given to the NHS to help in its ongoing response to and recovery from the pandemic, and support an effective and sustainable healthcare system, the government said.

Local authorities will also receive a boost of £750 million to spend on schools, social care and other vital services.

The National Wales: Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government. Photo: Huw Evans Picture AgencyRebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government. Photo: Huw Evans Picture Agency

Green investment of more than £160 million in revenue and £1.8 billion capital will be committed over the period and spent on growing a national forest, creating biodiversity, active travel, the circular economy, renewable energy, flooding and decarbonising housing.

A total of £1.6 billion capital will also be invested in providing good quality housing, which includes £1 billion for social housing and £375 million for building safety.

Significant attention will be paid to the funding set aside for policies in the Labour-Plaid co-operation agreement, which includes free school meals for all primary pupils and free childcare for all two year-olds.

Both these priorities are funded within the additional £320 million being put into learning and education reform, with £90 million going to free school meals and £30 million for childcare and early years provision.

Apprenticeships and employability support programmes will get an additional £61 million.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said the budget would create a “fairer Wales” but warned tough choices would have to be made in the wake of the UK Government’s spending review, which is said to have given the country a “lower-than-expected” settlement.

It is claimed the budget available to the government is nearly £3 billion lower than if it had increased in line with the economy since 2010-11.

Revenue funding is increasing by less than 0.5% in real terms between 2022-23 and 2024-25, and overall capital funding is falling in cash terms in each year of the Spending Review period – and is 11% lower in real terms in 2024-25 than the current year.

There has also been criticism from the Senedd of Westminster’s refusal to help pay to remediate the country’s coal tips, which has an estimated price tag of between £500 million and £600 million, nor to fund new rail infrastructure.

READ MORE: Row over calls for Westminster to fund Welsh coal tip safety

Arrangements for replacing EU Structural Funds have also been said to fall well below the £375 million a year the country was receiving.

In response, there will be an extra £4.5 million in the budget, a total capital investment of £44.4 million, to carry out essential maintenance works on coal tips and develop a future reclamation programme.

Ms Evans said: “Where the Spending Review was silent on the climate and nature emergency, we are taking action. Where the Spending Review did not support coal tip safety, we are stepping up.

“And where the Spending Review failed to address regional inequality, we are investing in every part of Wales and making meaningful investment in tackling inequality.

“This is a budget to kickstart delivery of our ambitious and bold Programme for Government, and I am proud to publish it, providing the foundations for recovery and moving us towards a stronger, fairer, greener Wales.”

It is unusual for the budget, which is being released on Monday, to be published while the Senedd is in recess.

However, Ms Evans will face a scrutiny committee on Wednesday and will deliver an oral statement, which usually is heard on the same day the budget is published, on January 11.

Responding to the budget, Conservative shadow minister Peter Fox MS said: “Labour have been responsible for running Wales since the days of Tony Blair, but along with their nationalist helpers they’ve consistently failed to improve our economy and public services.

“As we continue to face challenges from the pandemic, Labour ministers must use this budget to prioritise Wales’ recovery and address societal pressures rather than wasteful socialist and nationalist pet projects such as constitutional change and more politicians.”

The Welsh Conservatives have called for the introduction of a compensation fund for businesses who are being hit by cancellations in the wake of Omicron.

Following complaints by devolved leaders over lack of support from the Treasury to tackle Omicron, the UK government announced on Sunday an additional £270 million for Wales.

“The Conservative UK government has provided Labour ministers with record funding to deliver for Welsh communities – an extra £2.5 billion per year on average on top of its annual funding of £15.9 billion – and it’s vital this is used to help councils keep bills low for working families, rectifies the chronic underfunding of schools and ensures our infrastructure is fit for the 21st century,” Mr Fox added.

Plaid Cymru’s finance spokesperson Llyr Gruffydd said the budget would “support some of our poorest households and will change people’s lives for the better across Wales”.

He added: “In reality, of course, far more could be done if the size and scale of the Welsh budget wasn’t dictated by a Tory UK government in Westminster that is out of sight and so out of touch with our nation’s needs.

“Instead, we are expected to foot the bill for eye-watering expenditure such as the HS2 rail project, set to be built entirely outside Wales and to the detriment of our economy.”

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