Wales politics

Education boost as Welsh government budget deal done

Kirsty Williams AM
Image caption Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader Kirsty Williams says the budget will help thousands of children

The Liberal Democrats have signed a deal with Labour to pass the Welsh government budget, which includes extra spending on education.

It includes the completion of a link road in east Cardiff and a pledge not to build the new M4 relief road before the next assembly elections.

A concessionary fare scheme for 16-18 year olds is also planned.

Details of the full £15.1bn budget are due to be unveiled by Finance Minister Jane Hutt this afternoon.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said the deal struck would benefit 70,000 children.

Leader Kirsty Williams said: "Our announcement today will help them get a fairer start in life."

Extra funding will be given to the pupil deprivation grant, a scheme to increase school spending in poorer areas.

The Liberal Democrats said the total deal was worth £223m over two years.

'Fairer start'

As well as the education funding, it includes a pledge to begin building the eastern bay link road in Cardiff.

The £57m project would connect Cardiff Bay with the A48 at Tremorfa, and was first mooted as part of the 1990s regeneration of the docks area of the city, before being cancelled by then-Welsh Secretary John Redwood.

There is also a pledge to spend £10m on a to-be-decided transport scheme in north Wales, and an additional £5.3m for Llandrindod Wells County War Memorial Hospital.

Labour is without a majority in the Senedd and needed a deal with another party to pass its annual budget.

Plaid Cymru withdrew from the talks this year in protest at plans to build the M4 relief road to the south of Newport.

The Liberal Democrats are also opposed to the M4 relief road, but Tuesday's deal confirms the existing Welsh government position that construction would not start before the 2016 assembly elections.

Ms Williams said: "This deal reflects a major investment into our schools, while also offering a huge boost to Wales' economy.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to giving all children, no matter their background, a fairer start in life.

"I am delighted that we have increased the value of the grant to be £1,150 per pupil on free school meals. Nearly 70,000 pupils across Wales will benefit from this investment.

"It is a devastating fact that by the age of five Wales' poorest pupils are already falling behind.

"For that reason, I am immensely proud our party's scheme has now been extended to nursery pupils.

"We may be the smallest party in the assembly but again we are having the biggest impact. We have shown that the Welsh Liberal Democrats remain the party of education."

Traffic congestion

The party said the completion of the eastern bay link road would cut congestion, speed up journey times and get traffic out of the residential areas of Roath.

Construction is due to begin in 2015-2016.

Jenny Willott, Welsh Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, said: "This road will relieve pressure to residential roads in and around the city centre and reclaim them from the trucks and heavy traffic that currently clogs them.

"Currently Newport Road is at gridlock during rush hour and many local residents and businesses suffer because of it.

"I am confident that the construction of this new road will ease pressure on Newport Road and many nearby residential streets whilst also encouraging new business to move to areas in the south of the city, creating new jobs in the process."

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