Saturday, November 26, 2011

Budget deal helps disadvantaged children & economic activity

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, writes: "we came to an agreement with the Welsh government to start the funding for a Pupil Deprivation Grant – the Welsh equivalent of the Pupil Premium, one of the key Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges. We have also managed to convince the government to introduce an economic stimulus package worth £38.9 million.

"Like the Pupil Premium in England, we are assigning funding using the Free School Meals indicator – because it targets pupils directly and because of the strong link between Free School Meals and low attainment. This means that from April 2012, every child on free schools meals will attract an extra £450 of funding – no matter where they live, or what school they go to. This is a total Pupil Premium spending of £32 million, of which £20 million is brand new money for the education budget.

"Just two weeks ago the Welsh government lost a vote on its spending plans for the next year. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently made clear, as I said in my speech at the Federal Party Conference in Birmingham, that we would only support a budget if there was substantial changes that offer more support for children from poorer backgrounds. I am proud to announce that we have achieved that today.

"On the 6th of December there will be a vote on the final budget. If the government’s budget was not to pass, an emergency provision would kick in whereby it would be cut by 5%. The consequences for Wales would have been dire. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have proven that we are a responsible party that is willing to make the big decisions in the interests of Wales.

"We may have a small group in the National Assembly, but our influence in these budget negotiations will have a big impact on children’s lives. Thanks to the Welsh Liberal Democrats, we are making huge steps in starting to break the link, school by school, community by community, between poverty and achievement that has dogged our education system for so long.

"The £38.9 million economic stimulus package we have also agreed is absolutely vital if we are to take action to tackle joblessness using initiatives to build valuable skills.

"The package comprises:

· Young Recruits Programme

· Skills Growth Wales

· Capital Investment in Schools

· Cardiff Housing Project

· Community Energy Saving Programme

· Social Housing

· Enterprise Zones

But let me be clear, this is purely an agreement about the budget for next year. With Labour lacking the 'comfortable majority' they predicted before the election, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have had the opportunity to influence the direction of our country. I am proud we have today done this in such a positive way."

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