Thursday, 6 September 2007

For Wales, see England

Some interesting thoughts from the ever-thoughtful Adam Price, faithfully reproduced by the Western Mail this morning.

Price points out that public spending per head is slightly higher in the North East of England than it is in Wales and draws the conclusion that Wales would be better off as a region of England, although presumably he's not proposing a redrawing of national boundaries.

It's an interesting contribution to the debate over how Wales is funded, although I had hoped to make it through September without referring to the Barnett formula.

The source of his figures is the Treasury. The difference between Wales and North East England in 2006/7 is estimated at £38 per head - spending in Wales is higher than in seven of the other eight regions of England, London being the exception.

Spending on health is £110 higher per head, education is £32 per head higher in the North East, a region thought comparable to Wales due to its heavy industrial past and the consequences of that.

The difference in health spending can't be attributed solely to the overall level of funding - it's a question of priorities for the Welsh Assembly Government (and its new Plaid Cymru Ministers?).

Price poses interesting questions too for the UK Government and the Wales Office. Its response: “The Barnett formula delivers a stable funding base for Wales - £14 billion this year - and there is no guarantee that replacing it would provide a better deal for Wales.

“Spending per head in Wales is 11 per cent higher than the UK average and 14 per cent above the average for England - that is £1,000 a head more in Wales than across England."

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