Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Formula one

Breaking news, of a sort, on the anoraks' favourite subject, the Barnett formula.

The news is that there's no news, and that the Government is sticking to its public line that the formula, which effectively decides how much the Welsh Assembly Government can spend on public services, won't be changed.

Scotland on Sunday, a newspaper, had reported that the Treasury would be reviewing the formula under pressure from English MPs miffed by higher public spending in Wales and Scotland.

Now a member of Gordon Brown's Cabinet, leader of the Lords Baroness Ashton, says Ministers have no plans to review the Barnett formula, which was introduced as a temporary measure in the 1970s.

She told peers this afternoon: "It's interesting how many things that have been brought in for a year or two actually survive the course and we believe this has survived the course and have no plans to review".

Before self-appointed members of "civic society" take to the streets of Cardiff, we should acknowledge that the words used, almost a formula in themselves, would allow the Government to change its plans.

Some MPs are rather perplexed by demands from Cardiff Bay for a review of the formula, as they fear it could lead to a cut in Welsh spending rather than an increase.

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