Wales politics

Schools and apprentices share in extra £39m stimulus

Building site
Image caption Ministers say extra money will build homes and create construction jobs

Funding to improve school buildings and create apprenticeships has been announced to help revive the economy.

The destination of a stimulus package worth nearly £39m was agreed as part of the Welsh government's budget deal with the Liberal Democrats.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said it would help "generate immediate benefits" for the economy.

But Plaid Cymru said it was "completely inadequate" and the Conservatives said it should go to council tax payers.

Labour and the Lib Dems announced a budget deal on Friday night, ending weeks of negotiations between ministers and opposition parties.

With 30 of the assembly's 60 seats, Labour needs the help of at least one other party to approve its spending plans.

The £38.9m windfall - to be spent over two years - also formed part of budget discussions.

The money is coming down from the Treasury as a result of a council tax freeze in England.

Enterprise zones

A programme to help businesses hire young recruits is among projects receiving funding. The government said an extra £4.9m would create 1,800 more apprenticeships.

Some £9m will go towards upgrading school buildings, with the same amount spent on delivering an additional 130 homes.

The government will spend £3.5 improving roads in places where it is planning to create enterprise zones. Five parts of Wales have been earmarked as zones where businesses will get help to grow.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said that copying the UK government by using the money to keep down council tax would not significantly benefit the economy, adding that tax bills for band D homes were lower on average in Wales.

Labour has faced criticism from opponents, particularly Plaid Cymru, for not doing enough to respond to a deteriorating economic situation.

Ms Hutt pointed to other government spending commitments, intended to help growth.

She said she had considered proposals to spend the money from across the government.

She said: "This package builds on those actions to boost the economy and develop public services, generating immediate benefits for our economy while complementing our long term aims."

Conservative shadow finance minister Paul Davies said he was disappointed ministers were using additional resources to "top up" existing policies.

He said: "There is nothing new in this package other than a fresh attempt by Welsh Labour ministers to be seen to act on the economy, while spending money which would be better spent by taxpayers themselves."

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said her party will also work with the government on how to spend any money allocated to Wales as a result of Tuesday's Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats approach will be to continue to get our economy moving and improve the quality of life for people in Wales," she said.

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones said: "For over six months, Labour has sat back and done nothing - exposing Wales to the full force of this economic crisis.

"Now, they're trying desperately to create the impression that this small sum of money will do what's needed. Quite simply, it will not."

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