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Carwyn Jones, Labour leader and First Minister for Wales, was grilled this morning about devolution and the future of public services in Wales.
In a brief television interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Jones defended his decision not to ring-fence the NHS, and maintained that the Wales Job Fund would tackle what Marr described at “unemployment black spots”.
Carwyn Jones, courtesy of Flickr
“I do not believe for one moment health has been ring fenced in England,” he said. Mr Jones highlighted the 7.5% decrease in Wales’ health budget.
“We can only do what we can with the money that we get,” he said.
Mr Jones said of unemployment: “There is no one answer. The last thing you do is remove the future job fund – taking away the scheme that helped them the most seems ridiculous.”
He claimed the Wales Job Fund would create 4,000 jobs for young people.
Marr tried to rustle Mr Jones’s feathers by asking him if he felt Wales had to “march in step” with Westminster.
“We have a business-like relationship with the UK,” Mr Jones replied. “We want to shield people from the worst effects of cuts. We do things in Wales not because we want to be different for the sake of it or to be awkward,” he maintained.
Marr also suggested that Welsh universities would become “second class” and “pound saver” universities if they decided against raising their tuition fees.
Mr Jones explained he did not want to price “talented young people” out of university, and reminded Marr that some universities would be able to raise their fees if they met certain criteria.
More than 10,000 uniformed police officer posts will disappear by the end of next year in England and Wales, Labour Party research suggests.
The coalition government has maintained that frontline jobs can be protected, despite the 20% police budget cuts by 2014-15 ser by the Comprehensive Spending Review.
But Labour Party research, which gathered figures from 42 police authorities in England and Wales – except the British Transport Police – suggests the party claims cannot be realised.
It says a total of 10,190 police officers are to be cut.
Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “Cutting so fast and so deep into police budgets is crazy. It is completely out of touch with communities across the country who want to keep bobbies on the beat.
“How do they think it helps the fight against crime to force so many experienced police officers onto their pensions or trained police community support officers on to the dole, leaving the rest of the force overstretched as a result?
“Chief constables are being put in an impossible position. They are working hard to fight crime, but the government is pulling the rug from underneath them.”
Based on October’s CSR, it is estimated 1,600 jobs could be lost across Wales’ four forces over the next four years.
South Wales Police alone faces a £47m funding gap over the four years, which equates to 688 officers and staff whose jobs could be lost.
Unison Gwent Police branch secretary, Linda Sweet, said last week that compulsory job losses look unavoidable. On Friday February 4, she predicted 350 jobs would be cut from the force.
At the end of January, Police Authorities Wales (PAW) agreed to collaborate in key areas to cut costs to try to maintain front line services.
Think tanks have warned that police cuts may have disastrous consequences. In January, Civitas said criminals are less likely to get caught, as police numbers are cut over the coming years.
The report, 2011: The start of a great decade for criminals? said “a nation with fewer police is more likely to have a higher crime rate”.
Similarly, the head of the Police Federation warned last September that proposed cuts would leave the public less safe. Paul McKeever, the federation’s chairman, said the most vulnerable in society would be worst hit, and predicted crime levels will go up.