WALES' finance minister has said she has been forced to make “the starkest and most painful” decisions since the dawn of devolution as the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2024-25 was unveiled.

Under the plans set out by finance minister Rebecca Evans on Tuesday afternoon, every department in the Welsh Government except the NHS and social health will have less to spend in real terms next year.

The cut is most drastic in rural affairs, where the budget will be slashed by 8.97 per cent - or 10.47 per cent in real terms. Social justice, climate change, and finance and local government also face cuts, while in real terms the Welsh Government has warned there will also be less to spend on the economy, and education and the Welsh Language.

Meanwhile pubs, cafes, shops and other businesses will see tax bills increase as the amount they can claim in rate relief is slashed.

Ms Evans warned the overall budget is “not sufficient to respond to the extraordinary pressures Wales faces, including persistently high inflation, the cost-of-living pressures people and businesses continue to experience, unfunded public sector pay rises or to recognise rising demand for services”.

Saying “this was always going to be a very difficult budget round", Ms Evans said: "Following the UK Autumn Statement, our budget is now worth £1.3 billion less in real terms than when it was set in 2021.

“In making this Draft Budget, we have had to take incredibly difficult decisions – the starkest and most painful since devolution. This has not been a typical year, where we have had an abundance of positive choices to make about where we can target increased and additional investment.”

The Welsh Government has also announced retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which had previously received business rates relief during the pandemic will see the amount they can claim cut from 75 per cent to 40. It remains at 75 per cent in England.

On this, Ms Evans said: “This temporary relief was never intended to continue indefinitely and our move to more frequent revaluations will ensure that non domestic rates bills better reflect up-to-date market conditions for all sectors of the tax-base.”

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies called the budget “one of soundbites over substance”.

And Plaid Cymru branded the budget “unsustainable” and warned it would have a “serious long-term impact on Wales. Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth pointed the figure jointly at the UK and Welsh Governments, saying both are failing to address the problems Wales faces.

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds called the draft budget “the same old deal that leaves Wales standing still and doesn’t move us forward”.

The Welsh Government has also faced criticism for issuing the draft budget during recess, meaning MSs will not have the opportunity to discuss it in the Senedd until the New Year.

Mr Ap Iorwerth said: “We’re disappointed that our request to recall the Senedd today so we could begin to discuss this draft budget and hold the Labour Government to account.

"Plaid Cymru will do all that we can to scrutinise, challenge and influence the budget where possible over the coming weeks.”