The Welsh Liberal Democrats have announced today that they have secured a £223m two year budget deal that prioritises the futures of our children and young people, and helps to ensure opportunity for all from cradle to college.
Central to the agreement is expanding the flagship Pupil Deprivation Grant. All schools in Wales will receive £1,150 per child on free school meals by 2016 to spend on improving the literacy and numeracy skills of our poorest pupils. For the first time, this Grant will be extened to under 5s to make sure our children get the best possible start in life.
We will also deliver:
- a 'Youth Travellers Concessionary Fare Scheme' for 16-18 year olds worth nearly £15m;
- extra childcare investment for further education students in Wales who are parents, investing in a pilot scheme promoted by the National Union of Students;
- funding for around 5,000 new apprenticeships;
- £95m capital investment in infrastructure that will provide a strong boost to jobs and the economy;
- an agreement that no construction of the M4 relief road will start before the next Assembly elections and a detailed Environmental Impact Study into the project will be commissioned.
Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:
"This deal reflects a major investment into our schools, while also offering a huge boost to Wales' economy.
"The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to giving all children, no matter their background, a fairer start in life. I am delighted that we have increased the value of the grant to be £1,150 per pupil on free school meals. Nearly 70,000 pupils across Wales will benefit from this investment.
"It is a devastating fact that by the age of five Wales' poorest pupils are already falling behind. For that reason, I am immensely proud our party's scheme has now been extended to nursery pupils. We may be the smallest party in the Assembly, but again we are having the biggest impact. We have shown that the Welsh Liberal Democrats remain the party of education.
"In March we published proposals to give young people discounted travel on public transport. Affordable public transport is key to enabling young people to access work, education, training and apprenticeships. Now, because of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, people aged 16-18 will have the help they need to travel to allow them to take advantage of the opportunities on offer."
Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Finance Minister, said:
"This is a deal that delivers for Wales. Our party remains focussed on strengthening our economy and helping people get back into work.
"We have today secured £95m worth of capital expenditure that will provide a strong boost to our economy. Across Wales people will see the benefits of these Welsh Liberal Democrat projects.
"The Welsh Government has agreed that construction on the M4 will not take place during this Assembly, and that a detailed Environmental Impact Study into its proposed route will need to take place before it can proceed further.
"If the Welsh Government wants its preferred route for the M4 to be built, then it must survive a legal challenge, produce a convincing environmental assessment, win a majority at the next Assembly elections and then face a public inquiry. The Welsh Liberal Democrats will not support a scheme that blows such a large proportion of the Welsh Government's borrowing powers on one single road. That is irresponsible."