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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Does the Welsh Labour Government complain too much?

If you spend long enough in the chamber of the National Assembly for Wales then you will quickly come to the conclusion that everything is the fault of the coalition government in Westminster. Well that is the refrain from Welsh Labour AMs and Ministers, week in, week out.

This piece by David Cornock on the Barnett formula then is especially interesting. He reports on his conversation with Gerry Holtham around the report written by the Cardiff-based economist for the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Professor Holtham, who first categorically established that Wales would be treated more generously if we were funded on the basis of need rather than the population-based Barnett formula, was asked about his assessment of where Wales stands now, some years after his study was published:

He told me: "At the time we did the research it was £300 m to £400 m a year less than it would get if it were an English region getting needs-based grants. We don't know what that is now.

"Given the squeeze on public finances it's probably a smaller number, the shortfall is probably less than it was then. Even then, it was only a couple of per cent of the Welsh budget so we're probably down to one per cent of the Welsh budget."

In comments that may yet be worth recalling the next time you hear a politician use his figures, he added: "It's not going to change the world. Welsh government has to find a way forward apart from just complaining about the grant."

Given that the principle of a funding floor has now been conceded by the Treasury, perhaps it is time we established what the current situation is rather than complaining at every turn and then put in place a proper action plan to take advantage of the UK Government's revised position on this matter.
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