This week, and much to the surprise of many political commentators in Wales, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and I held a joint press conference announcing that we are to join forces to negotiate with the Welsh Labour Government on next year’s budget settlement.
In the National Assembly, the Welsh Government has exactly half of the Assembly Members. Therefore, each year the Welsh Government needs the support of at least one of the opposition parties to pass their annual budget. In the past, this has given the Welsh Government the opportunity to encourage opposition parties to compete against each other to do a deal with them. This year will be somewhat different, as both of our parties will refuse to negotiate with the Welsh Government unless it’s on a joint basis.
Many have been discussing what this announcement now means for Welsh politics.
Firstly, I must highlight that this is certainly not a formation of any sort of alliance. The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru are two very different parties with different ideologies. However, that is not to say that we can’t work together. By negotiating as a team, I believe that we will strengthen our hand in achieving our parties’ priorities. We are committed to ensuring that we can provide a better education system, sustainable health services and provide a much needed boost in the Welsh economy.
In 2012 the Welsh Liberal Democrats managed to secure our very own Welsh Pupil Premium through budget negotiations with the Welsh Government just as, in England, Nick Clegg persuaded the Tories of the importance of extra funding for our most deprived children. I am immensely proud that we managed to persuade Labour of the same in Wales. This extra money is making a huge difference in our schools.
My Welsh Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will be looking to build on this success. We will not support a budget that does not make progress towards closing the funding gap with England – starting with the poorest children who often need help the most.
I am pleased that were are able to work with Plaid Cymru to try and secure a budget that will get the most for the people of Wales.
* Kirsty Williams AM is Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh Government