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Bourne: Assembly budget raises concerns for Wales

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"Sadly, this has been a bad-tempered debate. The first thing that I wish to point out to Huw Lewis is that this is not the final budget debate; it is a draft budget debate, and the budget is subject to amendment. Opposition Members are fully entitled to propose amendments to the draft budget.

It is to the credit of individual Assembly Members that they are able to make a judgment on what is in the best interests of Wales. No Member, whether on the opposition or Government side of the Chamber, should challenge that fundamental right.

I have some concerns about the draft budget, and these have already been expressed. I hope that the Minister will consider the concerns of opposition parties, because, let there be no doubt, the Government is a minority Government. To his credit, the First Minister realised that when he negotiated in a very open and sensible way on the issue of top-up tuition fees.

The draft budget was not made in such a way as to take account of the concerns that we have raised in a joint amendment.

Quite why these concerns should be painted in the way that they have been by the Government as being totally off the political spectrum fails me. It escapes me why it is thought that vested interests are somehow behind an amendment that seeks to address some of the problems faced by council tax payers in Wales, many of whom are pensioners, who are being moved up three bands for houses that have gone up in value but that belong to people who have no intention of selling them. I cannot see why that is a vested interest. It is a concern that many of our constituents throughout Wales face. I hope that it is something that the Minister will look at again.

Council tax is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed. On the bouncing bomb from the Member for Neath Port Talbot who keeps getting up to say that this is all Tory inspired, I remind Members on the other side of the Chamber that what has engendered the most hostility to what you have done in Wales is the fact that a Labour Government led, the last time I looked, by a Labour Prime Minister of sorts at Westminster did not want to touch your revaluation with a disinfected barge pole.

Tony Blair knew that it had been a disaster for Wales. So that is why we are questioning it, even more than we would have done previously; it is because they do not want it in England.

Secondly, the First Minister—which I well remember, as do opposition leaders who had meetings with him—acknowledged that there was a funding gap.

Let there be no doubt about that. We did not know the extent of that gap, but we would scarcely have set up a review or body to consider this if we did not believe that there was a funding gap. All that we have asked for in this budget is for a start to be made in addressing that funding gap; that is not unreasonable.

It is a serious funding gap that is disadvantaging Welsh students at Welsh universities. We should be addressing it in the interests of all those we represent.

I now come to the point that was reasonably made by John Griffiths. We have not touched on the small schools' budget, because it is within existing budgets. On council tax relief, we are looking at about £11.5 million in a given year; that is what it cost last year.

You have budgeted £3.5 million for this year, so that means finding £8 million within the existing budget. We are, therefore, looking for that within the existing budget. As a party, we believe, as you do, that the Barnett formula provides rough justice for Wales. I am not confident that, if we were to look at that, we would get a better deal for Wales. I fear that we would get a worse deal.

So, we are looking within the budget settlement to find funding to address the serious issues that we have put forward in that joint amendment. I hope that you will address it in the same spirit as that in which it was tabled, because, if that does not happen, we face some serious consequences as an Assembly, and the people out there will not thank us for it."

"Yn anffodus, mae hon wedi bod yn ddadl groes. Y peth cyntaf yr hoffwn dynnu sylw Huw Lewis ato yw nad hon yw'r ddadl derfynol am y gyllideb; dadl ddrafft am y gyllideb ydyw, ac mae'r gyllideb yn agored i gael ei newid.

Mae gan Aelodau'r gwrthbleidiau bob hawl i gynnig gwelliannau i'r gyllideb ddrafft. Mae'n glod i Aelodau Cynulliad unigol eu bod yn gallu llunio barn am yr hyn sydd er lles pennaf Cymru. Ni ddylai'r un Aelod, boed ar ochr y gwrthbleidiau neu'r Llywodraeth o'r Siambr, herio'r hawl sylfaenol honno.

Mae gennyf rai pryderon am y gyllideb ddrafft, ac mae'r rhain wedi cael eu mynegi eisoes. Gobeithiaf y bydd y Gweinidog yn ystyried pryderon y gwrthbleidiau, oherwydd, gadwch inni fod yn gwbl glir, Llywodraeth leiafrifol yw'r Llywodraeth hon.

Er clod iddo, sylweddolodd y Prif Weinidog hynny pan aeth ati i drafod mater ffioedd dysgu atodol mewn ffordd agored a synhwyrol iawn.

Ni luniwyd y gyllideb ddrafft mewn ffordd a oedd yn rhoi sylw i'r pryderon yr ydym wedi eu codi mewn cydwelliant. Nid wyf yn gallu dirnad pam y dylai'r pryderon hyn gael eu portreadu fel a wnaethpwyd gan y Llywodraeth fel pryderon sydd y tu hwnt i'r sbectrwm gwleidyddol yn llwyr.

Ni allaf weld pam ei bod yn credu mai buddiannau breintiedig sydd rywsut wrth wraidd ein gwelliant sy'n ceisio mynd i'r afael â rhai o'r problemau a wynebir gan dalwyr y dreth gyngor yng Nghymru, llawer ohonynt yn bensiynwyr, sy'n cael eu symud i fyny dri band am dai sydd wedi cynyddu mewn gwerth ond sy'n eiddo i bobl nad oes ganddynt unrhyw fwriad o'u gwerthu.

Ni allaf weld pam mae hynny yn fuddiant breintiedig. Mae'n bryder y mae llawer o'n hetholwyr ledled Cymru yn ei wynebu. Gobeithiaf ei fod yn rhywbeth y bydd y Gweinidog yn edrych arno eto.

Mae'r dreth gyngor yn fater sylfaenol y mae angen rhoi sylw iddo. O ran y bom bowndiog gan yr Aelod dros Gastell-nedd Port Talbot sy'n codi o hyd i ddweud mai'r Torïaid sydd y tu cefn i hyn oll, atgoffaf yr Aelodau ar ochr arall y Siambr mai'r hyn sydd wedi ennyn yr elyniaeth fwyaf i'r hyn yr ydych wedi ei wneud yng Nghymru yw'r ffaith nad oedd Llywodraeth Lafur o dan arweiniad, y tro diwethaf yr edrychais, rhyw fath o Brif Weinidog Prydeinig Llafur yn San Steffan am hyd yn oed gyffwrdd â'ch ailbrisiad gyda pholyn lein wedi'i ddiheintio.

Gwyddai Tony Blair ei fod wedi bod yn drychineb i Gymru. Felly dyna pam yr ydym yn ei gwestiynu, yn fwy hyd yn oed nag y byddem wedi ei wneud cynt; am y rheswm nad ydynt ei eisiau yn Lloegr.

Yn ail, cydnabu'r Prif Weinidog—a chofiaf hynny'n dda, fel y gwna'r arweinwyr gwrthbleidiau a gafodd gyfarfodydd gydag ef—fod yna fwlch cyllido. Ni ddylai fod unrhyw amheuaeth am hynny. Ni wyddem faint y bwlch hwnnw, ond go brin y byddem wedi sefydlu adolygiad neu gorff i ystyried hyn pe na baem yn credu bod yna fwlch cyllido.

Y cyfan yr ydym wedi gofyn amdano yn y gyllideb hon yw am ddechrau mynd i'r afael â'r blwch cyllido hwnnw; nid yw hynny'n afresymol. Mae'n fwlch cyllido difrifol sy'n peri anfantais i fyfyrwyr o Gymru ym mhrifysgolion Cymru. Dylem fynd i'r afael â hynny er budd pawb yr ydym yn ei gynrychioli.

Dof yn awr at y pwynt a gafodd ei wneud yn rhesymol gan John Griffiths. Nid ydym wedi ymdrin â'r gyllideb i ysgolion bach, oherwydd y mae o fewn y cyllidebau presennol. O ran gostwng y dreth gyngor, yr ydym yn edrych ar oddeutu £11.5 miliwn mewn blwyddyn; dyna faint a gostiodd y llynedd.

Yr ydych wedi cyllidebu £3.5 miliwn ar gyfer y flwyddyn hon, felly mae hynny'n golygu dod o hyd i £8 miliwn o fewn y gyllideb bresennol. Yr ydym, felly, yn chwilio am hynny o fewn y gyllideb bresennol. Fel plaid, yr ydym yn credu, fel chithau, nad yw fformiwla Barnett yn deg iawn â Chymru. Nid wyf yn hyderus, pe baem yn edrych ar hynny, y caem well bargen i Gymru.

Ofnaf y byddem yn cael gwaeth bargen. Felly, yr ydym yn edrych o fewn setliad y gyllideb i ddod o hyd i gyllid i fynd i'r afael â'r materion difrifol yr ydym wedi eu rhoi gerbron yn y cydwelliant. Gobeithiaf y byddwch yn rhoi sylw iddo yn yr un ysbryd ag y'i cyflwynwyd, oherwydd, os na fydd hynny'n digwydd, yr ydym yn wynebu canlyniadau difrifol fel Cynulliad, ac ni fydd y bobl allan yn y gymuned yn diolch inni am hynny."

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