The green focus in the recently announced Welsh Government’s draft Budget places Wales at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency, says the Head of ACCA Wales Lloyd Powell, who also welcomes the co-ordinated approach to investment and budget planning for 2022 to 2025.
Targeted, green investment of more than £160m revenue and a total investment of £1.8bn capital will be committed over the next three years, in a growing overall budget.
Lloyd Powell says: “What’s commendable about the draft budget is that it’s collaborative and future-looking – after all green investment cannot be done in silos, and it needs to be planned for the short and longer term. Green investment will be targeted across a wide variety of policy areas, and impact on all areas of government and society, with the Minister for finance and local government emphasising the need for a collective effort.”
Highlights in the draft Budget include:
- Investment in the NHS, social care and local authorities: helping to address the on-going impact pandemic and to build back after it. This is essential spending.
- Skills and employability support are also welcomed with an additional £61 million of spending, but it is disappointing that higher level apprenticeships (Level 7) still do not appear to be an area of focus.
- Business support: the non-domestic rates relief measures for businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality are most welcome, and especially so for smaller businesses. But it’s likely further support will be needed depending on any further restrictions. Although additional funding was announced in the Budget to support businesses across Wales over the next three years, there were very few details. It will be interesting to understand what support will be available to support SMEs which represent such a large part of the Welsh economy.
Additional spending across a range of areas and sectors will be used to invest in net-zero technology and energy efficient building upgrades. However, for businesses it’s vital that investment in adaptations, such as energy efficient property fit-outs does not materially alter the rateable value and result in a business rates uplift.
ACCA Wales is also keen to see this investment reported appropriately. Lloyd Powell explains:
“There are also implications for net zero reporting in Wales for many organisations in all sectors. As part of global climate plans, we expect to see an expansion of monitoring and reporting on emissions in coming years, whether in the public, private or third sectors.
“Increasingly, this will be pushed down supply chains – whether public or private – to smaller businesses and organisations. In our recent report, published jointly with the ICC and Sage, we highlighted the urgency to begin to streamline, simplify and automate this process to avoid an unnecessary burden on small businesses. The Welsh Government needs to ‘think small first’, as part of its Tax Policy Work Plan and explore ways in which practical barriers can be broken down for SMEs.”
Lloyd Powell says that in the immediate future, it is essential that investment is set aside to support businesses impacted by any further Covid restrictions, on top of the support announced last week: “Throughout this pandemic, alongside the huge investments in supporting public health, the Welsh Government has supported businesses to survive and recover, including emergency business support. This must continue as support for small businesses is very much needed at this very challenging time. Alongside this, businesses need to be given certainty and stability that will help them recover and to help create a fairer, greener and prosperous future for Wales.”
The final budget will be published 1 March 2022, after scrutiny in the Senedd in the New Year.