Another roadblock to fair funding for Wales

I've just read today's article by Nick Bourne on Wales Home, and much of what he says in it can be put down to the Tories being Tories. But there is one sentence towards the end that stands out as being particularly pernicious:

We must settle the political accountability question in Wales – the responsibility issue – before turning to the funding question.

Wales Home, 13 June 2010

The ConDem coalition's programme for government had previously stated:

•  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

As I said at the time, and again here, if all parties recognize that Wales is not fairly funded, it is a problem that needs to be addressed now. We all know that there are going to be huge cuts in public spending, and that we in Wales will need to shoulder our share of the pain ... but it must be our fair share. The action taken by the ConDem government to release the Fossil Fuel Levy owed to Scotland has meant that the cuts they have to face will be some £185m less than they would otherwise be. Why is Wales not entitled to a similar degree of fairness over the £300m that the independent Holtham Commission has identified as being owed to Wales?

But as if that wasn't bad enough, Nick Bourne has gone one step further than to say that we "must await the stabilization of the public finances" before we can expect this injustice to be addressed. He has declared that we "must settle the political accountability question in Wales – the responsibility issue – before turning to the funding question".


We have a situation in which the Welsh Government is responsible for spending the money it is given by the Treasury in London. We cannot raise taxes, we cannot borrow money, we cannot spend more than we are given. If the people of Wales don't like the decisions that the Welsh Government makes, they can vote for parties that they think might do better at the next election. That's how political accountability works in a democracy.

Now of course we should have responsibility for both sides of the fiscal equation. It is much better that the Welsh Government should have more fiscal autonomy by setting tax rates and balancing our spending against that tax take. I welcome any plans the ConDem coalition might have in that direction ... and we in Plaid Cymru have been pressing for this change for years.

But the simple fact is that we are being short-changed now, and we would be fools to let the promise of some sort of unspecified change to the system at some unspecified time in the future distract us from that fact.

Only last month, Tory and LibDem leaders in Westminster put up the first roadblock to fair funding for Wales by telling us that we have to wait for the public finances of the UK to be stabilized first. It was a way of kicking the issue of fairness for Wales into the long grass, in much the same way as Labour in Westminster refused to deal with the problem when they had a chance to do so.

But Nick Bourne has now put up a second roadblock to fair funding by telling us that we must also wait until the Tories and LibDems come up with a plan for the next stage of devolution in Wales. We've come to expect endless delaying tactics of that sort from politicians in Westminster, but you have to wonder what sort of masochism would make a Welsh politician ignore the £300m a year that his own country is owed.

Bookmark and Share


Anonymous said...

Nick Bourne is not a Welsh politician, he is an English politician (by outlook not by birth) who happens to be in Wales.

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone surprised by this?

Like most politicians one of Nick's underlings wrote the article, the same Tory underlings he recruits that are often English, know nothing about Wales or Welsh politics and couldn't care less what happens in the Assembly where they are learning their trade before returning to Westminster.

Then ask yourself in that context why would Wales getting less money from the Barnett Formula even be on their radars of these people to keep on reminding their boss (Nick) to lobby his part colleagues in London for a change.

Post a Comment