Tuesday, 13 October 2009

8 days is a long time in politics

Is it really all of eight days since George Osborne reminded the Conservative conference: "This June we told the truth and said publicly that whoever won the election would have to cut government spending"?

Yes, eight days on, a news release arrives in the inbox from the Welsh Conservatives. Headlined "WORST EVER SETTLEMENT FOR COUNCILS" it criticises the Welsh Assembly Government's local government budget.

“This increase marks a record low with regards to local government settlements in Wales," says Tory Assembly Member Darren Millar. “This is going to put even more stress on the already strained budgets of councils throughout the country."

This year's settlement may or may not be "the worst ever". Does anyone really think that if George Osborne is Chancellor 12 months hence - and has held his promised summer emergency Budget - the Welsh Assembly Government will have more cash to splash on councils? Or that local government in England will be spared Tory cuts?

The devolution settlement means WAG has no responsibility for raising its own funds - giving opposition parties equal freedom to criticise Ministers who fail to cough up the cash whatever their colleagues in Westminster say.

You can see why Unionist parties in Scotland - and figures close to Gordon Brown such as Ed Balls - believe political spending should be accompanied by some responsibility for raising the cash involved.


Anonymous said...

I bet if you checked back that's the same headlines and press release from the last two years as well and all that's changed is this year’s figures have be included, because the Welsh Conservatives have said the last two local government settlements for Welsh Councils were 'the worst ones ever'.

It doesn't really bode well for the type of scrutiny that will be on offer from the main Opposition to the National Assembly over the WAG's tighter budget for the coming year if all they do for local authority settlements is recycle the same arguments for more money and issue the same press releases.

James D said...

This shows the problem with the reinventing the wheel approach that was taken with devolution. It would have been far more consistent to make Wales and Scotland Dominions under the Statute of Westminster so that the West Lothian Question (and its flip-side of sops to Unionists) were not put.

(After all, that would have some historical merit: 16th and 17th Century Acts of Parliament refer to the Dominion of Wales.)