Andrew Davies, the Finance Minister, took quite a grilling from backbench AMs from his own party this afternoon.
Giving evidence on his draft budget to the Finance Committee, Andrew Davies struggled to defend his government’s short-sighted plans to cut higher and further education funding by 5% despite the desperate need to re-train those who have lost their jobs and despite the fact that Wales needs to invest in education to prepare for future economic growth.
On several occasions throughout the proceedings he repeated the question, ‘Where is the money going to come from?’ while Labour backbencher Ann Jones helpfully reminded him of an unallocated £50 million he has stashed away in the health budget.
All in all, the Labour backbenchers were unusually vocal and direct in challenging the Minister, and the three of them on the committee – Alun Davies, Lorraine Barrett and Ann Jones – evidently felt passionately about the need to invest in education.
Given that the Labour-Plaid government’s budget singularly fails to deliver what these three AMs think it should, it will be interesting to watch how they vote when the budget is put before the Assembly in two weeks’ time.
Two of the aforementioned AMs were part of a group of six Labour AMs who voted against their government’s plans for a badger cull in Pembrokeshire (to halt the spread of Bovine TB) yesterday. Clearly they are not afraid to vote against their own government when it comes to protecting wildlife. Will the same hold true when it comes to protecting people’s chances of a better future?
That was two of the three. The third?
I don’t hold out much hope. This time a year ago, Alun Davies supported his government’s previous cut to colleges’ budgets – and then had the shameless audacity to campaign against the cuts with the college unions…. outside the very building in which he cast his vote.
No, I am willing to bet that in a fortnight’s time, these apparently vocal opponents of the government’s education strategy will no doubt appear as supine as their Plaid Cymru partners.