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Burns: Frontline services to suffer under Labour-Plaid budget

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I thank the Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery for his written and oral statements and for the draft budget for the next three years. It really is a draft, is it not? 'One Wales' was recognised as being light on costings, and we had to wait while Westminster decided what it was going to give us, but now we see that these eagerly awaited numbers are light on policies.

No wonder, Minister, you said that you do not intend to use this opportunity to initiate or engage in a full-blown debate on the draft budget. However, I need to ask you some questions.

I know that you will say that we must wait for Ministers to announce how they intend to spend their share of the money, but can this really be the way that your much vaunted, new joined-up Government operates? I will take some of the key elements that have already been announced, individual Ministers notwithstanding.

There is £7 million for the business rate relief scheme, but I am told by your own officials that the policy has not yet been developed for that and that the Minister will be going out to consultation on it. How can that be? Without a policy, how did the £7 million come about, or are we going to be looking for policies that can be squashed into arbitrary figures?

Let us examine the £4 million for pensioners. That is £15 million, sorry, £15 for each pensioner household—I wish that it were £15 million—or is it the case that, again, the policy has to be worked out as to whether it is going to be the really old pensioners or the really poor pensioners who get help, rather than all pensioners? Giving £4 million to pensioners sounds good, but they will have to wait for it. Pensioners need our help now and this coming year; they cannot wait.

As for the £0.5 million for first-time buyers, that will help fewer than 100 people if you honour in full Plaid Cymru's manifesto pledge of giving £5,000 in matched funds. That was one of its key policies. Remember 'Seven for '07'? Alun Ffred thinks that this is a Government that is Plaid-driven; I say that Plaid is hanging on by its fingernails.

Not only is this the worst settlement since devolution, it only just keeps pace with inflationary pressures, and it is a confirmation of the fears that the pre-budget report and the comprehensive spending review raised. It is also one of the most opaque budgets that we have seen. It starts with the promise that the Government is going to concentrate on outcomes.

The First Minister reiterated that today during questions, but, Minister, how on earth have you been measuring the effective use of our moneys over the past decade if not according to outcomes? I am sure that you will tell us that this or that scheme that seems to have disappeared from this budget document is really there, but just under another cost code or in another portfolio. However, let us look at some basic accounting: the £7 million for business rates has a cost code all to itself, but there is nothing here for this year or next and yet a business rate relief scheme is already in existence. Therefore, where is it, Minister? Or is it to be dispensed with in order to reappear the year after next as part of the £7 million?

I understand that money is tight, and thankfully for you there are local government elections next year. What a golden opportunity to pass the buck to local government organisations.

As they have been phoning me to tell me today, they perceive this as punishing them. The authorities have been put in a straitjacket; they cannot raise taxes too much if an election is called, and they will be capped anyway. Is it the case that the delivery of public services will have to suffer? What will it be? Monthly bin collections? Will care for the elderly or transfers of care suffer? Are you intending to ring fence the money for cutting class sizes?

After all, although it amounts to only £681,000 for each local authority, it is surely tempting money for a local authority trying to pay for care in the community initiatives. The local government settlement is not only below inflation, it is markedly below the settlement given to areas directly under the control of the Government—a point not lost in an election year.

I know of councils that are looking to either save £3 million or put taxes up to 10 per cent, which they obviously cannot do. How can you ask an organisation to save £3 million, and, in the same breath, tell it to achieve a 70 per cent increase in waste recycling?

By the way, it must also eradicate child poverty in its area in double-quick time. Eradicating child poverty is an outstanding objective, but it needs proper financing; credit unions in schools are not going to do it. However you slice and dice it, Minister, the draft settlement provides an increase of only 2.2 per cent for local government, compared to 4 per cent in the last financial year.

If we look at areas directly controlled by the Government, I see no closing of the funding gap in education and no clear direction on how we are going to mend our broken school buildings. I understand that, in health, the figure of £1.2 billion is to include old moneys from schemes already in force. Therefore, this is not all brand new money.

Any money for health is welcome, but there are key issues that have not been dealt with, such as funding for the children's hospital. I look forward to seeing the budget details from the Minister for Health and Social Services. Can £400 million a year for the health service really deliver all the promises in 'One Wales'? You said yourself, Minister, that 'One Wales' was more than a list of initiatives; it is your programme for government. However, the money does not appear to add up.

You spoke of having to cut costs, of having a bonfire of inefficiencies, but I must point out that, over the past 10 years, it is this Labour Government that has created the firewood. We identified 1 per cent of savings that would be achievable in our manifesto commitments, but your numbers seem very unachievable. After all this time of waiting for the draft budget, it reminds me of a pot of jam; our pot is very small, and instead of concentrating the jam on front-line delivery of services, you have spread it very thin—no doubt to appease Plaid and your backbenchers, with all their ideological pet projects. Rather than a bonfire of inefficiencies, we should have a bonfire of the vanities: get rid of the nonsense, and concentrate on core services."

"Diolch i'r Gweinidog dros Gyllid a Chyflenwi Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus am ei ddatganiadau ysgrifenedig a llafar ac am y gyllideb ddrafft am y tair blynedd nesaf. Drafft yw hwn mewn gwirionedd, onide?

Cydnabuwyd bod 'Cymru'n Un' yn ysgafn o ran manylion cost, a bu raid aros tra penderfynai San Steffan beth yr oedd am ei roi i ni, ond yn awr gwelwn fod y rhifau hyn y bu disgwyl brwd amdanynt yn ysgafn o ran polisïau. Nid oes ryfedd, Weinidog, i chi ddweud nad ydych yn bwriadu defnyddio'r cyfle hwn i gychwyn na chymryd rhan mewn dadl lawn ar y gyllideb ddrafft. Fodd bynnag, mae arnaf angen gofyn ambell gwestiwn ichi.

Gwn y dywedwch fod yn rhaid inni aros i Weinidogion gyhoeddi sut y bwriadant wario'u cyfran hwy o'r arian, ond ai dyma mewn gwirionedd y ffordd y mae eich Llywodraeth gydgysylltiedig newydd fondigrybwyll yn gweithio? Cymeraf rai o'r elfennau allweddol sydd eisoes wedi'u cyhoeddi, beth bynnag am Weinidogion unigol.

Mae yno £7 miliwn ar gyfer y cynllun rhyddhad ardrethi busnes, ond dywedir wrthyf gan eich swyddogion chi eich hun nad yw'r polisi wedi'i ddatblygu eto ar gyfer hynny ac y bydd y Gweinidog yn mynd allan i ymgynghori yn ei gylch. Sut all hynny fod? Heb bolisi, sut y daethpwyd at y £7 miliwn, ynteu a ydym yn mynd i fod yn edrych am bolisïau y gellir eu gwasgu i mewn i ffigurau mympwyol?

Gadewch inni edrych ar y £4 miliwn i bensiynwyr. Dyna £15 miliwn, mae'n ddrwg gennyf, £15 i bob aelwyd lle mae pensiynwyr—o na bai'n £15 miliwn—ynteu ai'r ffaith yw, eto, fod angen penderfynu ar y polisi o ran ai'r pensiynwyr gwirioneddol hen ynteu'r pensiynwyr gwirioneddol dlawd fydd yn cael cymorth, yn hytrach na phob pensiynwr? Mae rhoi £4 miliwn i bensiynwyr yn swnio'n dda, ond bydd yn rhaid iddynt aros amdano. Mae ar bensiynwyr angen ein help ni'n awr a'r flwyddyn hon sydd i ddod; ni allant aros.

O ran yr £0.5 miliwn i brynwyr tro cyntaf, bydd hynny'n helpu llai na 100 o bobl os anrhydeddwch yn llawn addewid maniffesto Plaid Cymru i roi £5,000 mewn arian cyfatebol.

Dyna un o'i bolisïau allweddol. Cofio 'Seven for '07'? Mae Alun Ffred yn meddwl mai Llywodraeth sy'n cael ei gyrru gan Plaid yw hon: dywedaf fi fod Plaid yn dal ei gafael gerfydd ei hewinedd.

Nid yn unig dyma'r setliad gwaethaf ers datganoli, nid yw ond prin yn cadw i fyny gyda phwysau chwyddiant, ac mae'n cadarnhau'r ofnau a godwyd gan yr adroddiad cyn cyllideb a'r adolygiad gwariant cynhwysfawr. Dyma hefyd un o'r cyllidebau mwyaf anhryloyw inni ei gweld. Mae'n dechrau gyda'r addewid fod y llywodraeth yn mynd i ganolbwyntio ar ganlyniadau. Ailadroddodd y Prif Weinidog hynny heddiw yn ystod y cwestiynau, ond, Weinidog, sut ar wyneb y ddaear yr ydych wedi bod yn mesur defnydd effeithiol eich arian dros y degawd diwethaf os nad yn ôl canlyniadau? Yr wyf yn siwr y dywedwch wrthym fod y cynllun-a'r-cynllun sydd fel petai wedi diflannu o'r ddogfen gyllideb hon yno mewn gwirionedd, dim ond ei fod dan god costau arall neu mewn portffolio arall.

Fodd bynnag, gadewch inni edrych ar waith cyfrifon sylfaenol: mae gan y £7 miliwn ar gyfer ardrethi busnes god costau iddo'i hun, ond nid oes dim byd yma ar gyfer eleni na'r flwyddyn nesaf ac eto mae cynllun rhyddhad ardrethi busnes eisoes yn bodoli. Felly, ble mae e, Weinidog? Ynteu a fwriedir cael gwared ohono er mwyn iddo ailymddangos y flwyddyn ar ôl nesaf fel rhan o'r £7 miliwn?

Yr wyf yn deall fod arian yn dynn, ac yn ffodus i chi ceir etholiadau llywodraeth leol y flwyddyn nesaf. Dyna gyfle euraid i basio'r bai i gyrff llywodraeth leol. Fel y maent wedi bod yn dweud wrthyf mewn galwadau ffôn heddiw, gwelant hyn fel cosb arnynt hwy. Mae'r awdurdodau wedi'u caethiwo; ni allant godi trethi ormod os gelwir etholiad, a chânt eu capio beth bynnag.

Ai'r gwir yw y bydd rhaid i gyflenwad gwasanaethau cyhoeddus ddioddef? Beth fydd hi? Casglu biniau'n fisol? A fydd gofal i'r henoed neu drosglwyddiadau gofal yn dioddef? A ydych yn bwriadu neilltuo'r arian ar gyfer cwtogi maint dosbarthiadau? Wedi'r cyfan, er mai dim ond £681,000 yw'r swm i bob awdurdod lleol, mae'r arian yn siwr o fod yn demtasiwn i awdurdod lleol sy'n ceisio talu am fentrau gofal yn y gymuned. Nid yn unig y mae'r setliad llywodraeth leol yn is na chwyddiant, mae'n sylweddol is na'r setliad a roddwyd i feysydd sydd yn uniongyrchol dan reolaeth y Llywodraeth—pwynt nad yw wedi'i golli mewn blwyddyn etholiad.

Gwn am gynghorau sy'n meddwl am naill ai arbed £3 miliwn neu godi trethi i 10 y cant, rhywbeth na allant ei wneud, wrth reswm. Sut y gallwch chi ofyn i gorff arbed £3 miliwn ac, ar yr un gwynt, dweud wrtho am ailgylchu 70 y cant yn fwy o wastraff? Gyda llaw, rhaid iddo hefyd ddileu tlodi plant yn ei ardal yn gyflymach na chyflym.

Mae dileu tlodi plant yn nod ardderchog, ond mae angen cyllid priodol i'w wneud; nid yw undebau credyd mewn ysgolion yn mynd i gyflawni hyn. Sut bynnag y torrwch y gacen, Weinidog, nid yw'r setliad drafft ond yn darparu cynnydd o ddim ond 2.2 y cant i lywodraeth leol, o'i gymharu â 4 y cant yn y flwyddyn ariannol ddiwethaf.

Os edrychwn ar feysydd dan reolaeth uniongyrchol y Llywodraeth, ni welaf ddim cam i gau'r bwlch cyllido mewn addysg na dim cyfeiriad clir o ran sut yr ydym yn mynd i drwsio'n hadeiladau ysgolion sydd wedi torri. Deallaf, ym maes iechyd, fod y ffigur o £1.2 biliwn i gynnwys hen arian o gynlluniau sydd eisoes mewn grym. Felly, nid arian newydd sbon mohono i gyd.

Mae unrhyw arian i iechyd i'w groesawu, ond mae materion allweddol sydd heb gael sylw, megis cyllid ar gyfer yr ysbyty plant. Edrychaf ymlaen at weld manylion y gyllideb gan y Gweinidog dros Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol. A all £400 miliwn y flwyddyn i'r gwasanaeth iechyd yn wir gyflawni'r holl addewidion yn 'Cymru'n Un'? Dywedasoch eich hun, Weinidog, fod 'Cymru'n Un' yn fwy na rhestr o fentrau; dyma'ch rhaglen ar gyfer llywodraeth. Fodd bynnag, nid yw'n ymddangos bod yr arian yn adio'n gywir.

Soniasoch am orfod torri costau, am gael coelcerth o eitemau aneffeithlon, ond rhaid imi nodi mai'r Llywodraeth Lafur hon sydd, dros y 10 mlynedd diwethaf, wedi creu'r coed tân. Nodasom ni 1 y cant o arbedion y gellid eu cyflawni yn ein haddewidion maniffesto, ond mae eich ffigurau chi'n ymddangos yn amhosibl eu cyflawni.

Wedi'r holl amser hwn o aros am y gyllideb ddrafft, mae'n fy atgoffa i o bot o jam; mae ein pot yn fychan iawn, ac yn lle canolbwyntio'r jam ar gyflwyno gwasanaethau rheng flaen, yr ydych wedi'i daenu'n denau iawn—er mwyn plesio Plaid a'ch meinciau cefn, mae'n siwr, gyda'u holl hoff brosiectau ideolegol. Yn hytrach na choelcerth o eitemau aneffeithlon, dylem gael coelcerth o eitemau ymffrost: cael gwared o'r lol, a chanolbwyntio ar wasanaethau craidd."

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