|Editorial Commentary; By how much should England ‘subsidise’ Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland?|
Brexit means it is time to radically change the way the nations of the UK are funded, WAG Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford has said.
He has called on the UK government to ‘make good the promise made during the referendum that Wales will not lose out on funding’ as he launches the WAG’s latest Brexit policy paper setting out proposals to design a new funding system to guarantee fair & continuing investment for Wales and the rest of the UK.
The proposals include:
Lord Barnet never intended his formula to last for decades and he once told the BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme it was "grossly unfair" and repeated his call for it to be scrapped. He also told the Daily Telegraph introducing it was a "terrible mistake" which had become a national and personal "embarrassment". (Devolution: What's the Barnett formula? - BBC News ~ The Barnett formula: a quick guide – House of Commons Library ~ How the Barnett formula is 'flawed' in favour of Scotland and NI ~ IFS: laws in the Barnett Formula make it unsuitable for allocating funding ... )
However, replacing it is easier said than done, mainly due to the difficulty in getting a consensus on how it should change. It would be easy to get Scotland & Wales to agree that their payments should be raised to the same per head as Northern Ireland, but that would mean English taxpayers having to find even more money to pay for it.
Statistically England only gets a couple of hundred £s less per head than the others when one averages the total for the whole UK, BUT in actuality England receives around £2,000 less per head than Northern Ireland, with Scotland and then Wales getting lesser amounts than NI.
So with around 84% of the UK population living in England the ‘elephant in the room’ is ‘why should (for example) Scotland & Wales be able to afford ‘subsidised / free’ university education and free hospital car parking while England cannot’? (Some would say the Barnett Formula settlement for Wales must be too generous if they can afford this! )
England has as many remote / rural / deprived areas as other parts of the UK, plus it has to deal with such challenges as shortages / high cost of housing and an influx of immigrants every year which raises the demand for public services. It could be legitimately argued that there is no valid reason for them to get more per head than England, if it is going to be spent on ‘extra’ benefits, which England is ‘not given funding for’.
Designing ‘a new way of the 4 nations of the UK working together to agree fiscal issues to replace the current EU framework’ and creating ‘new bodies independent of government to oversee the new system & resolve disputes’ could well make the complexities of negotiating Brexit seem simple by comparison, which is probably why the Barnett formula is still in operation today.After all, how does one agree a system where less than 16% of the population ‘compels’ the other 84% to fund them better than they do themselves?