26th November 2013
Another quick diversion in our central – local series today but the topic seemed relevant.
On Thursday Sir Merrick Cockell hit the breakfast airwaves and TV studios to press the case for the reform of the Barnett formula. Although obscure, the Barnett formula, named after a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury named Joel, governs how over £50 billion of public spending is distributed between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Sir Merrick and the LGA have been looking into the Barnett formula and have calculated that a change in the way the formula is calculated could mean an additional £4.1 billion flowing to England, largely at the expense of the public services of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Rather surprisingly, especially as I am an English local government worker, this really irritated me.
This was for three main reasons. Firstly, this felt like the worst sort of beggar my neighbour politics; secondly the rationale underpinning the need for change (namely pressure on local government budgets caused by increases in social care costs) seemed particularly tenuous and thirdly because any argument about redistributing based on need should start with differences within the UK rather than picking on the receivers of public services in Scotland and Northern Ireland.