Rebecca Evans on ‘unacceptable’ UK government funding announcement
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has written to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss seeking urgent clarification about the ‘surprise’ announcement last week of an extra £140 million for the Northern Ireland Budget in 2019-20.
Last month the Welsh Finance Minister met her UK counterparts in Cardiff to discuss the importance of ensuring transparency and clarity of funding decisions as part of wider discussion about the application of the Statement of Funding Policy – this is the rulebook, which determines how funding is fairly allocated throughout the UK.
But on Thursday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced an additional £140 million for the Northern Ireland budget in 2019-20 and extra budget flexibility to switch capital funding to resource funding.
Rebecca Evans recently said,
“Last week’s decision to allocate further funding exclusively to Northern Ireland is yet another demonstration that the UK government is willing to bypass the rules about how funding is allocated in the UK and it is not acceptable.
“The arrangements offered to Northern Ireland have direct read across to areas of devolved responsibility. The benefits of the additional spending should therefore be mirrored in all parts of the UK – in Wales, in Scotland and in England.
“Using the well-established arrangements, the normal application of the Barnett formula would have resulted in an additional £246 million for Wales. I would welcome confirmation ahead of the Spring Statement that the UK government will address the imbalance and make this funding available to Wales, along with additional budget flexibilities offered to Northern Ireland last week. The value of these additional flexibilities was raised at a meeting of UK finance ministers last month.”
The Welsh and Scottish governments have previously raised concerns about the UK government allocating funding to Northern Ireland outside the established Statement of Funding Policy.
Rebecca Evans recently said:
“We are still to reach a satisfactory resolution to the UK government’s decision in 2017 to allocate £1 billion exclusively to Northern Ireland as part of the confidence and supply agreement the Conservative Party reached with the Democratic Unionist Party. It is unacceptable the UK government would take further funding decisions of this nature and not offer parity of treatment to all parts of Wales, Scotland and England. It further emphasises the urgency of reviewing and jointly agreeing a revised Statement of Funding Policy to remove ambiguity in future.
“As I made clear when we last met, it is my intention to secure collective agreement from UK finance ministers to a set of principles which would provide the foundation for a mature, coherent and positive relationship between our governments. The announcement last week serves to reinforce the need for a new way of working between our governments.”
As a result of the UK government’s continued pursuit of austerity, the Welsh Government’s resource (revenue-only) block grant is £650 million less in real terms compared to the beginning of the decade. Funding per person for day-to-day devolved public services in 2019-20 in Wales will be 7% lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11.
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