Q7 Leanne Wood: Will the Minister make a statement on the overall budget allocation for the economy and transport portfolio? OAQ(3)0684(FPS)
Andrew Davies: The Assembly Government budget for 2009-10 was approved by the Assembly in December 2008. The budget allocation for the economy and transport portfolio in 2009-10 is £718 million in revenue and £467 million in capital.
Leanne Wood: I support the Welsh Government’s intentions to deliver improvements to the economy in Wales using the budget that we have. However, we have seen from debates in the Chamber over recent weeks that decisions that are taken by the UK Government can have much wider implications—particularly financial implications—than our own decisions. You have stated that the UK Government’s budget still leaves us with enough room to deliver the 'One Wales’ programme; however, the impact of the recently announced budget will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the Welsh economy. There are bound to be job losses, or at least a reduction in the number of posts in the public sector. Minister, people are angry because this economic crisis was not caused by anything that the public sector did, yet the public sector will bear the brunt of the cuts. Will you indicate how many posts could be under threat in the public sector as a result of the so-called efficiency savings demanded by the UK Government?
Andrew Davies: I would disagree with you, Leanne, that the public sector will bear the brunt of the recession; that has not been true up to now. In fact, it is the private sector in Wales—particularly the manufacturing sector as well as the service sector—that have borne the brunt of the recession in terms of unemployment and redundancies. I and the First Minister have said that it is far too soon to say that the shape of public finances in Wales in the foreseeable future will lead to redundancies. That is something that we will discuss with local government, the health service and other service providers. However, I am still confident that we can continue to deliver better and more efficient services. For example, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council is undertaking a strategic review of its services, engaging with its front-line staff together with people who use its services, and it expects to achieve 20 per cent efficiency savings. That has not led to any redundancies. It has led to not needing to fill empty vacancies, but that is different from a job loss. If everyone across the public sector takes that approach to service transformation, we can achieve our goal of better services delivered more efficiently, and give greater value for money for the Welsh taxpayer.