Tuesday, 28 July 2009


The MPs have left Westminster, some for the beaches, others for Closer magazine.

For the hacks left behind, there is the odd crumb of a story - Esther Rantzen's political career is taking off again today - and a chance to muse on the issues of the day.

You may think that it's summer and life is too short to discuss the Barnett Formula, but before the Cabinet awayday to Cardiff is forgotten I thought I'd share the Prime Minister's views on the way the devolved institutions are funded.

This is Gordon Brown's take on the formula in the light of recent reports suggesting it is too generous to Scotland but short-changes Wales:

"The principle of spending allocation in the UK is that we allocate resources according to need. The Barnett formula has been the traditional means that we do it. If any changes are needed in the Barnett formula as a result of these reviews, we'll look at this. But I think Rhodri Morgan has said himself that spending in Wales by the Assembly has doubled over the last few years.

"And we've made it possible for wales to have better health pieces, better schools and better spending on the infrastructures of transport and policeing on which we depend, and so we will continue to ensure that spending is allocated fairly according to need."

That was Mr Brown's answer to the second question in a two-question "interview" he gave at the end of the awayday. His definition of "need" would be challenged by many critics of a population-based formula.

So what will change? He doesn't appear in a hurry to rush to his constituents to explain why they should get less public spending to help the under-funded Welsh.

The Conservatives, who hope to take power within a year, have occasionally made noises about changing the formula but despite the imminence of a general election have yet to spell out what they would do in this area, as in so many others.

At this rate, the formula will outlive the sprightly Lord Barnett himself.

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