Halloween may be in two weeks’ time but the whole of 2020 has felt a bit like a never-ending horror movie, writes Nick Ramsay MS.
For those of you who love a good scary film, can I recommend the ‘Haunting of Bly Manor’ on Netflix – but if you’re looking for a dark political thriller, then look no further than the Welsh Government’s fiscal response to Covid-19.
It’s got it all – fear, confusion and there’s still six months until the election.
And yet in the midst of this horror story, let’s remember that the Welsh Government has received over £4 billion in extra investment to fight Covid-19 from the UK Government.
That’s £4 billion to support families and business from Monmouthshire to Moelfre and yet what the Welsh Government want is even more – more in the form of further flexibilities in the form of this year’s reserves, access to next year’s reserves and flexibility in terms of its overspend for this year.
It’s really quite astonishing – and yet the answer to all the demands from the Welsh Government are in their own hands.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this isn’t the year to be building up reserves, this is the year to be spending – in fact it baffles me that a Welsh Conservative Finance Spokesperson needs to remind a Welsh Labour Government of that.
If the Welsh Government needs more money next year then it’s simple – they’ll either have to tell the people of Wales that they’re going to hike up taxes or they’re going to have to stop the waste.
And if the Welsh Government wants to unilaterally introduce a circuit break lockdown in Wales they’ll have to do put together a business support package for those companies affected – and do that out of their own money too. If it’s their decision, taken in Wales and without reference to UK policy, then they can’t expect another government to pay the necessary compensation packages.
Readers, the important thing is this – in response to the eye-watering amounts of support offered to the Welsh Government throughout this pandemic, the Welsh Government, like a vampire, just want more.
Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak delivered an important speech on the UK Government’s Winter Economy Plan, providing some pretty important detail for businesses here in Wales.
Amongst the details was a commitment to expand the Job Support Scheme to support businesses that are required to close their premises due to coronavirus restrictions and crucially, the UK Government will pay two-thirds of employees’ salaries to protect jobs over the coming months.
Measures that are very welcome by businesses in my constituency of Monmouth and right across Wales.
The blanket wall of silence from the Welsh Government in response to that statement was evidence enough that these measures – as well as the huge investment that the UK Government has already made into Wales to tackle Covid-19 – has been generous.
And let me remind you that that investment in Wales has meant that nearly 380,000 jobs have been protected through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
This is the UK Government doing what is necessary to protect the economy and provide a vital safety net for workers across Wales.
In Wales, around 82,000 people have benefitted from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme. – another example again of where the UK Government is providing funding to help protect our entrepreneurs.
These are just some of the examples that show the UK Government is offering huge amounts of support to Wales and delivering support to help us survive this pandemic.
The Secretary of State for Wales is right to say that this investment has provided a vital safety net for thousands of people and businesses across Wales.
But despite the fact that investment has been generous and comprehensive, the Welsh Government are pushing for more and more.
There’s no fiscal innovation at the Senedd, no fiscal sparks – what we have instead is a Government more focussed on locking down communities and blaming all its ills on the Government across the border.
But there’s one good thing about horror movies – they always come to an end.
And next May we have an opportunity to deliver a Welsh Conservative Government – with Paul Davies as our First Minister.
And we can deliver a devolution revolution government that will cut waste and makes sure more of your hard-earned money reaches frontline services.
And we can work with the Conservative UK Government to help Wales build back better.
Nick Ramsay MS is the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance Minister