Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Fears for all-Wales travel pass recede

While most of my party's propaganda about the draft Welsh budget has understandably concentrated on the increase in the pupil premium, I was concerned to see what had been agreed about other social spending. The pupil premium of course was first championed in England by Nick Clegg, later being adopted as Conservative Party policy also. It is a tribute to the tenacity of Kirsty Williams and her team that the Labour Welsh Government was persuaded to extend it to Wales (though Labour insisted on it being given a different name).

There are some other benefits which may not have the LibDem stamp on them, but have their origins in the Labour/LibDem partnership of 2000. I am thinking of free bus travel for the over-60s and free prescriptions in particular, as both of these measures were said to be under threat during the drafting of the budget. However, these are safe for another year at least according to BBC News. There have even been increases.
These measures probably do at least as much for the well-being of older and infirm people in Wales as the £570,000 increase over two years in the Welsh NHS budget.

We were sniffy about free school breakfasts when Labour introduced them, worrying about their cost-effectiveness. Now Nick Clegg has seized on the idea of free school meals for primary school children - though it has not yet officially been adopted as LibDem party policy - so we can hardly complain about an increase here also.

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