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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Brown gaff in Swansea

You would think that if the Prime Minister is going to come to Wales then he will at least do his homework. Alas, it appears that is not the case.

Gordon Brown was in Swansea's Brangwyn Hall last night to address the Welsh Labour Party Conference. Afterwards he gave interviews with journalists and was quizzed on how his criticism of the Conservatives as the party of cuts squared with “efficiency savings” totalling hundreds of millions of pounds that the Welsh Government will have to impose as a result of a downwards adjustment in the amount of money coming from the Treasury:

Asked whether he would be prepared to revise the Barnett Formula, which determines how much money Wales gets from the Treasury on a population-based calculation, and which some argue has robbed Wales of hundreds of millions of pounds a year, Mr Brown said: “Public spending in the UK should be allocated on the basis of need – that is the Barnett principle. It has always been understood that Barnett was based on spending on need.

This is in fact wrong. The Barnet formula is a population-based formula that allocates a fixed percentage of government expenditure on devolved matters to Wales. At present that percentage is roughly 5.9% on the basis that Wales has 5.9% of the UK population living within its borders.

In fact the Holtham review, which Mr. Brown referred to is examining whether it is feasible to change this to a needs-based formula. The Prime Minister should go to the bottom of the class. And to think he was Chancellor of the Exchequer for ten years.
Public spending in the UK should be allocated on the basis of need – that is the Barnett principle.He said pretty much the same in answer to a question from a Northern Ireland member in the House last Wednesday. It's a pity nobody had the opportunity to challenge him then.
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