Budget gets hostile reception

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
The Welsh Assembly's pound;531 million education budget has been denounced as a "profligate waste of public money".

The accusation was levelled by Tory education spokesman Mark Isherwood, who believes much of the extra cash that is ostensibly being spent on education is not reaching schools. "Teachers have been ringing me about cuts in education and feel betrayed," he said. "The funding of schools should be ring-fenced."

Education minister Jane Davidson last week said that the budget would provide a huge injection of cash for the early years, 14 to 19 education and higher education over the next three years. But Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Jenny Randerson is also unimpressed by the spending proposals.

"It is a budget without vision,ambition or courage and is dominated by gimmick, spin and control," she said.

The Assembly members were speaking this week at the first debate of the draft education budget, which is expected to be ratified over the next few weeks.

Under the terms of the new budget, announced last week, an extra pound;141 million will be invested in early learning over three years.

That money will help to pay for free part-time nursery places for all three-year-olds in Wales and for integrated centres offering wrap-around childcare.

The money will also be used to fund the scheme to offer free breakfasts to all primary pupils.

Kirsty Williams of Plaid Cymru questioned Labour's pledges on free breakfasts and called on Ms Davidson to reallocate the funds designated for breakfasts to higher priorities such as student-support funds.

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