Dragon’s Eye

The last Dragon’s Eye before Easter and before the General Election is now on the iplayer here. What can you expect? I’ve been trying to peer into the Budget small print to find out how much less the Welsh Assembly can expect to get in the coming years. As far as I can tell (and I’m assisted by some significant public finance brains, so you don’t just have to take my word for it), there’s no indication there at all.

In fact it looks as though ministers and public servants here in Wales will have to wait until after the election to find out exactly how much the budgets will shrink by.

One of my brains trust is the former finance minister, Andrew Davies, who should know a thing or two about the public purse. He says he told colleagues to plan for a cut of about 10% which on a budget of nearly £16bn would be a hefty £1.6bn.  Former Economic Development minister, Mike German, told me the gap could be a billion a year. Either way it’s a significant shrinking and the only certainty is that it’s going to happen.

In the annexes of the budget by the way is clearly set out a comparison table of last year’s and this year’s Departmental Expenditure Limits (the amount coming from the Treasury to Wales).  For 2009/10 it was £16bn.  For 2010/11 it’ll be £15.7bn. It looks like we’ve gone beyond ‘real terms’ cuts and taking into account inflation, etc and moved into actual reductions already.

We also report on speculation that there could be moves after the election to oust the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. There’s no way of knowing if that’ll happen of course, but what is interesting is that the name of Paul Murphy, the Torfaen MP, is being touted around as a possible successor. In fact, if the rumours are true, he’s pretty much the only one that all the parties could agree on. He wouldn’t comment on our speculation but he did tell us he was “flattered”.

Other things to enjoy: me in an apron failing to slice a pepper, Felicity mistaking our reporter Carl Roberts for the Social Justice Minister, Carl Sergeant and our guests – two doctors (of the political not medical variety) and an actual Secret Millionaire. Not so secret now.

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