Fair Funding for Wales? Forget it!

I've just been reading the full ConDem coalition agreement, but had to stop when I read this:

•  We recognise the concerns expressed by the Holtham Commission on the system of devolution funding. However, at this time, the priority must be to reduce the deficit and therefore any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances.

The Coalition: our programme for government

Which is likely to take a very, very long time. The first part of the Holtham Report was an excellent piece of work which exposed the extent to which Wales has been systematically underfunded. It led to all parties having no choice but to recognize that the current funding mechanism was unfit for purpose and needed to be changed, and that it was particularly unfair on Wales.

Well, it's very easy to say you want it changed before an election ... but then find an excuse to do absolutely nothing to change it when you get into power.

It's a shameful decision for which both parties now in power in Westminster will pay dearly in the polls ... and Labour too, for they had the opportunity to change it when they were in power, but refused to do so.

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MH said...

I've just seen Kirsty Williams' response on Freedom Central:

"... setting up a Commission to look at funding for Wales are all issues the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been fighting for and I am pleased that the UK government has shown commitment to Wales and Welsh devolution by announcing these commitments today."

Can she not think before she spins? Doesn't she know that that a Commission to do just that has already been set up and completed the first part of its report?

Is she hoping that another Commission will come up with a different answer? ... one that her bosses in Westminster will this time feel able to accept?

Hendre said...

Just read Alan Trench's piece on this. Calman had a broader remit than funding so what is Kirsty going on about? Wouldn't it just be cheaper to dig out the Richard Commission report?

MH said...

Yes Hendre, there's still a lot that could still be implemented from the Richard Report, though it did centre mainly on the form of government. In tax terms it only went so far as to consider (and recommend) the same 3p variation that Scotland had at the time. But things have now moved on.

"Ap Calman", for want of a better name, is an interesting development. It has the potential for moving Welsh devolution futher forward, and I would expect things like devolution of the police and justice system to be one of the things recommended.

In so far as finance is concerned, Calman's focus was not so much on whether Scotland received a fair slice of overall UK spending, but on the mechanisms by which the Scottish government could be made at least partly responsible for determining the amount of taxes it gathers, as opposed to just spending what it is given. I think it's fair to characterize the mood of the unionist parties as trying to "force" the Scottish government to make decisions on tax, rather than take the "easy option" of not varying them at all.

I reckon some of the details of what Calman proposed on taxes were unfair and could be made fairer, but of course I'd welcome Wales getting the same sort of responsibility for setting tax rates rather than just spending what we're given.

MH said...

I mentioned the LibDem position, I've now found what David Cameron had to say about fair funding for Wales just before the election:

"We do think the Barnett formula is coming to the end of its life. But the assurance I would give to people is that if you replace the Barnett formula you have to replace it with a needs-based formula and there's plenty of evidence to say Wales' needs are very great. So there's no doubt Wales would do well out of any other formula ..."

This was said in Prestatyn on 17 April, reported here.

In other words he acknowledged that Wales has done badly as a result of Barnett, and that any other needs based formula would result in Wales getting a fairer share of funding than we have had over the past couple of decades.

In saying that at the launch of the Tories' campaign in Wales, his intention was clearly to win Welsh votes. Well, we can now see it was nothing more than deception. For if the state of public finances is now being offered as his excuse for doing nothing, things cannot have become significantly worse between 17 April and today.

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