Last week the Health and Safety Executive announced a two year extension to the lifetime of Wylfa's existing pair of reactors -- hugely good news for Anglesey. Furthermore, whereas Chris Huhne this week scrapped the Severn Barrier project in South Wales, Wylfa was given Preferred New Nuclear Site status. Ynys Môn couldn't have asked for more.
Strategic Defence Review
Although all three services will be pruned back, the Treasury has confirmed that one of Anglesey's largest employers, RAF Valley, will remain in service. So far so good.
Comprehensive Spending Review
- Welsh Assembly budget
According to the actual Treasury documents released yesterday the Welsh Assembly budget (excluding depreciation figures) will rise from £13.3bn in 2010/11 to £13.5bn in 2014/15, which is equivalent to a cumulative reduction of -7.5 percent in real terms over that period. Considering that the average departmental cut over the same period was -19 percent, as Betsan Powys says, "there is no question that on the revenue, or day to day spending side, the settlement [for Wales] is better than the scenario they had been planning for". With cuts at less than 2 percent per annum it will now be up to Carwyn Jones and the rest of the Assembly Government to stop whinging and start doing what they are paid for: i.e. governing.
- Public Sector job losses
This may come as a surprise for many readers, but Anglesey actually has a rather well balanced economy in terms of not being overly reliant on just one sector:
|Workplace employment by Industry - click to enlarge|
source: WAG Regional Economic & Labour Market Profile, Aug 2010
Only 28% of working adults on Anglesey are employed by the public sector -- which makes Anglesey's much less reliant on the public sector than either Wales as a whole (35%) or even the United Kingdom (31%). As a consequence of this, Anglesey's economy will hopefully be far more resilient to any unfortunate public sector redundancies than anywhere else in North Wales bar Flintshire.
- Local Authority Spending
Due to cuts in local authority budgets, BBC News research suggests that Anglesey County Council's current budget shortfall of £3.3m will rise to £10m between 2011-14. It remains to see what effect this will have on council headcount and services, but we should note that this shortfall if true will be the joint smallest in Wales.
With respect to the council I would personally judge that the most significant cause for our concern is the ongoing instability and indecision caused by the political problems at Anglesey County Council. Not only is it not conducive to inward business investment, the absence of a clear planning policy framework is having serious consequences for potential developers with the effect of "locking jobs in filing cabinets". Without up-to-date planning policies Anglesey will continue to stagnate.
The coalition government has specifically ring-fenced health spending and will ensure it rises above inflation. However the recently leaked McKinsey report revealed that that Welsh NHS is poorly managed politically, in addition it appears the formation of the Betsi Cadawaladr University Health Board has meant that all North Wales hospitals (including Ysbyty Gwynedd) are now suffering due to the significant budgetary problems at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. WAG says it may not have the budget to ensure that health spending Wales will be protected -- if so it will be time for it to reconsider whether Wales can continue to afford free prescriptions and so on.
- Incapacity Benefit
The current long-term sick who are paid incapacity benefit if they have paid National Insurance contributions will now only get their benefit for one year before being means tested and either losing all their benefit or moved on to a lower Job Seekers payment. The below diagram compares the current take up of out-of-work benefits throughout Wales (source DWP data here):
|Precent of population on out-of-work benefits: click to enlarge|
As you can see on these indices Anglesey is pretty much in the centre ground in Wales and faring far, far better than some of the South Wales valleys where almost a third of the population is on some kind of out-of-work benefits. Even so with 8.9 percent of Anglesey residents claiming incapacity benefit, we will have to see what effect this clamp down on incapacity benefit will have here.
By the year 2020 men and women will not receive the state pension until the age of 66. Pensions will be protected and a temporary increase in cold weather payments for pensioners will be made permanent and other payments including free eye tests, prescription charges and bus passes remain. As Anglesey has a larger than average population of retirees, this is a good thing for us.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive review of all of yesterday's announcements and there are other spending categories (e.g. policing) for which I have not been able to track down accurate figures yet -- so if you have any more accurate information please do post it below.
As many readers will know I have argued for some time that in order to secure our future economic growth, action needs to be taken to reduce the deficit and tackle our national debt. Accordingly, including the contribution from the permanent levy on banks, I also accept that all regions must bear their fair share of that pain -- including Anglesey. My first impressions are that although yesterday's measures are tough, when we take those decisions in the round and include the recent announcements concerning Wylfa and RAF Valley, it does not superficially appear that Ynys Môn has been disproportionately hit. I could be wrong though and would be interested to hear if anyone does think that Anglesey will be disproportionately affected?