Thursday, 21 February 2008

Peddling lines

I hesitate to write about the Barnett formula again - life's too short - but there's some excitement out there at another apparent snub to Wales.

The Western Mail reports how Wales has lost £8m in funding that should have come to Wales as a result of £140m in government funding given to Cycling England - "the national body which co-ordinates the development of cycling across England." .

"An open and shut case," says the sustainable transport charity Sustrans. "Cycling England is operating only in England." Sustrans say the Treasury classify Cycling England as a "UK spend", which ostensibly benefits the whole of the UK.

This is one of those stories that fuels outrage among those who believe civil servants in London spend their waking hours trying to find different ways of stealing cash from poor Welsh farmers to give it to well-heeled people in the south-east of England, where all the streets are paved with gold.

Except the UK Government says it isn't true. Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy says his office checked with the Department for Transport and discovered the money for Cycling England has come from its existing budget - a budget that has already had a spin-off for Wales.

The news release announcing the spend did claim that £110m of the £140m was "new" although that may mean new to the cycling budget rather than to the Department for Transport.

If the UK Government is right, perhaps the Barnett formula lobbyists should be asking the Welsh Assembly Government why it appears to have spent the money it received on something else?

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