Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 15:01 UK

'Failing' schemes facing the axe

Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan refused to specify which projects were facing the end

First Minister Rhodri Morgan says failing public sector projects in Wales may end to cope with a budget squeeze which could last for up to 10 years.

Mr Morgan said a spending review had identified schemes which could not be justified when budgets were very tight.

He said it could lead to a "drop off" in the number of public sector workers.

The Conservatives said the statement was "typically vague" and called for spending to be concentrated on "frontline services" not "giveaways".

It is the first time the assembly government has spoken openly about cuts to entire programmes as a result of tightening budgets in the coming years.

Are there low priority public sector programmes which you can't justify during a period of tight budget settlements, things that are nice to have but they're not things you need to have?
First Minister Rhodri Morgan

Mr Morgan said the squeeze could last for five or even 10 years and the process of identifying which projects were not delivering had been underway for the past two years.

But he suggested this would be partly offset by an increase in staff at the Department for Work and Pensions dealing with the consequences of the recession.

Speaking at a news conference, he said: "We've conducted an exercise called the SpREE (Spending Review and Evaluation Exercise) exercise.

"[It asked] 'are there public services programmes we fund which are coming to the end of their shelf life or haven't proved their worth?'.

"We've had a kind of green, amber, red system for analysing the public sector programmes.

"That's been a very useful exercise for us, so you're trying to find out: are there low priority public sector programmes which you can't justify during a period of tight budget settlements, things that are nice to have but they're not things you need to have?"

Asked what the implications were for jobs of cancelling entire programmes, Mr Morgan said: "There will still be rises in public service employees, say in DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) offices".

'Expensive gimmicks'

"You have to have an anti-surge device, so you have a recruitment process whereby people deal with an increase in jobseekers allowance and so forth, that's inevitable, but there will be a drop off in other public service workers, maybe, as people learn to live within restricted budgets," Mr Morgan said.

Both Mr Morgan and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones would not specify which projects might be cut, saying this was for Finance Minister Andrew Davies to announce as part of his budget later in the autumn.

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne said Mr Morgan's statement was "typically vague" and "failed to address the fundamental problem for public services in Wales", which was the substantial budget cut expected over the next few years.

"We have repeatedly said the assembly government needs to refocus its spending - moving it away from expensive gimmicks and giveaways and onto protecting frontline services," he said.

"Today's statement begs the question - if ministers have already identified failing projects, why do they continue to fund them?" Mr Bourne added.

Ministers 'must axe key policies'
23 Apr 09 |  Wales
No agreement with Brown on cuts
25 Feb 09 |  Wales politics

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