Health and social services spending will be frozen

HEALTH and social services spending will be frozen at around £6 billion for the next three years despite an Assembly pledge to protect its budget “from any cash reductions.”

The decision will effectively mean that spending on the sector will fall by more than six per cent after inflation over the next three years.

It emerged in the draft budget unveiled by Jane Hutt, the Minister for Business and Budget, that revenue funding for the sector for 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 will remain at the same level as the budget for this year.

But the Cardiff Bay administration has said it is committed to ploughing extra cash into free prescriptions and free school breakfasts and milk for primary school children — funding for these initiatives, along with the free bus pass scheme, will rise by 3.7 per cent by 2013-2014.

Ms Hutt said: “Despite the cut to our budget in 2011-2012, revenue funding for NHS delivery — by far the largest budget line in the Health Service — will actually be higher next year than this year.”

But Tory Assembly shadow finance minister, Nick Ramsay, said the budget represented a “cut of hundreds of millions of pounds to our NHS”.

He said: “That is completely unacceptable and puts frontline services at risk.

“The NHS has already faced cuts of £435 million this year and it has now been confirmed there is much more to come.”

Meanwhile, Ana Palazon, director of the Stroke Association in Wales, said that the organisation was seriously concerned about the cuts announced for local councils in the draft budget.

She said that whilst they applaud the Assembly’s approach to “ensuring that the health budget is not compromised”, the organisation could not “stand by without challenging the settlement” that has been allocated to local government and its impact on front line services for patients.

Age Concern’s “initial response” is that the overall budget presents “a fair deal for older people in Wales”.