Labour's Assembly Government finally admitted yesterday that not every primary school child in Wales will get the opportunity to have a free school breakfast.
The admission came after the publication of the Assembly's draft budget for next year by Finance Minister Sue Essex.
Officials confirmed that the budget had been drafted on the assumption that only 80% of primary schools would participate in the breakfast scheme.
In the schools taking part, it is assumed that only 30% of pupils will opt to have free breakfasts. The figures contrast with Labour's key election pledge in 2003 that there would be 'free breakfasts for all primary school kids'.
And, at a briefing for journalists, Ms Essex said there would be no help beyond that already announced for council tax payers hit by the rebanding of homes that led to big rises in bills for many this year. There has been anger in Wales after the UK Government's decision to postpone rebanding in England. This year, tax payers whose homes are due to go up two bands were put up only one band. From next April, however, they will have to pay the full increase.
Ms Essex said the only households to receive further help will be the small minority due to go up three bands. They will go up a second band next April, and not pay the full amount until 2007.
The Minister confirmed that prescriptions will come down to £3 an item and revealed details of extra spending totalling £240m which will come from the Assembly's reserves.
Around half the new money will go into the health service, including £56m to improve services and £15m for dental services to ease the chronic shortage of NHS dentists.
Universities will get £30m to compensate them for not charging top-up fees.
Services for the elderly and vulnerable adults benefit with an extra £10m for social care bringing the total spending next year up to £45m.
Regeneration in deprived Valleys communities will get a further £10m.
Local authorities will also get an extra £9m added to their annual settlement.
Ms Essex said, 'This is a balanced budget which addresses our immediate priorities in Wales and builds on the announcements made last year.'
Because Labour is in a minority at the Assembly, the budget could be defeated.
On free breakfasts, Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne said, 'Rhodri Morgan and Jane Davidson must have worked out this policy on the back of a cornflake packet. Labour promised free breakfasts for all but this now turns out to be just one in four.
'Rhodri and Jane should go back to school and take some extra maths lessons as they clearly have a problem understanding basic arithmetic.
'We always knew that this was a shameless, headline-grabbing gimmick. It now appears to be a meaningless one too. Parents, teachers and children have been deceived by Labour yet again. As we have argued all along, children are better off having breakfast at home with their families.'
Plaid Cymru's Shadow Finance Minister Dai Lloyd said there were a number of areas that the minority Labour Assembly Government would need to improve before Plaid would be able to support the draft budget. Dr Lloyd said,
'We are now scrutinising the draft budget carefully. We are concerned about the lack of help for council tax payers, local authorities, and higher education funding.
'More money per head goes to English universities than Welsh universities. It is only the Labour Assembly Government that doesn't recognise a funding gap. Like ostriches they stick their heads in the sand, choosing not to acknowledge that a gap exists.'
Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly leader Mike German said, 'The lack of specific money to meet the funding gap is a serious omission that needs to be addressed by the Assembly Government if they want our support for the budget. They are in danger of undermining the all-party agreement on student support.'
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