Monday, 15 June 2009

Calman and Barnett: Fair funding for the North East

It's not often that I'll comment on Scottish, Welsh or indeed Northern Irish politics. This usually isn't of much interest to residents in Blaydon or the North East.

Some will remember the doomed referendum in the North East about a North East Assembly. The North East roundly rejected the idea of a regional assembly. Friends of mine said that they weren't voting for it because it didn't have enough powers. They were right. I argued at the time that an assembly could act as a voice for the region and gradually gain more powers.

If Scotland is anything to go by, I was right! The three main national parties are proposing a major increase in devolution through the Calman Commission, which proposes that Scotland has more control over its tax.

So Scotland has more control over its affairs with the increased costs of the parliament. But no Scottish body is proposing abolition of the Barnett Formula, the spending formula that allocates more to Scotland per head regardless of need.

I believe that money should be allocated by need and the North East is the area with some of the worst social problems and has been hardest hit by the recession. Billions of pounds more would have been allocated to the region, and lots more to Blaydon, if this formula had been flexible rather than set in stone over thirty years ago. Even Joel Barnett, the former Labour minister who invented it, agrees.

No Scottish MSP wants to lose it and Labour shows no signs of changing its rigid policy of sticking to an unfair allocation (as did its Tory predecessor). It strikes me that after 11 years under a Labour government with a large number of North East MPs in its ranks, we have a right to expect more. With no North East Assembly we have no one else to back our case. Labour has let us down in Blaydon. Again.

No comments:

Post a Comment