Wales politics

Kirsty Williams: Government right to reject cuts Plan B

Kirsty Williams
Image caption Kirsty Williams: Lib Dems will be 'awkward' coalition partners when needed

The UK government cannot risk changing course on its deficit reduction plan, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has said.

Kirsty Williams said a Plan B change in policy would "spook the markets".

At the Lib Dem conference in Birmingham, she said the party was prepared to be "awkward" to make sure the coalition government delivered its policies.

She also attacked the Welsh Government's handling of the economy.

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition in Westminster has faced calls for a Plan B over cutting the deficit, with opponents saying spending cuts had stifled economic growth.

Ms Williams said the government was looking at ways to bring forward capital spending projects to stimulate the economy.

Asked if it was time for Plan B, she said: "No I don't think so. I think if the government had a major change of course now that would just spook the markets even more."

'Change of heart'

She told BBC Radio Wales: "Of course I'm not happy with cuts. Nobody is happy with cuts.

"But when you're left with the parlous situation that we have been left in I would rather see the government try and get the country back on an even keel than us be facing a situation like the Greeks, or the Spanish, or the Portuguese or the Irish."

Given the state of world economy "I think any significant change of heart now would spell an absolute crisis".

Although she would prefer a slower introduction of public spending cuts if possible, she added: "Unfortunately, I do not think it is possible."

She added: "No politician wants to cut budgets and then potentially cut services.

"But we have been left in a very difficult economic situation and I think the policy that is being pursued by the coalition government and the Liberal Democrat influence on that - bringing forward those capital investment projects, taking people out of paying income tax if they can, a triple lock for pensioners - that is a policy that is right for the moment."

'Prepared to be awkward'

She said her party had taken "a very brave decision to provide stable government for the country".

Although there were "differences of opinion, differences of approach", the party leader said both political parties were putting that to one side to provide the stable government the country needed.

But she added: "The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be awkward to ensure that the values and the policies that we campaigned on are implemented as far as possible."

She cited a decision to lift low-earners out of income tax, rather than cutting taxes for the wealthy, as examples of the Lib Dems' influence.

She said removing the 50p top rate of income tax should not be countenanced "unless there was an alternative way of the wealthiest in society contributing to the difficult economic climate the country faces".

Ms Williams also attacked the Welsh Labour government for a "lack of action" on the economy, saying responsibility for economic development was devolved and accusing it of failing to give a clear commitment on how it will spend money set aside for enterprise zones.

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