Archive for November, 2014

Short changed

htpqtdvj-1411554652-1Over 70 backbench MPs are today calling for a review of the Barnett formula, which gives Scots more public money than those living in Wales and England.

This motion puts the MPs into conflict with the pledge made by all three party leaders in the closing stages of the Scottish referendum to leave Barnett alone.

The overwhelming numbers that have signed the motion are Conservative MPs. They’re unhappy that the formula gives Scots more public money than those living in England.

As a Backbench committee debate it would require MPs to vote at the end. A large number of English MPs are set to vote for the motion to avoid having been seen to favour the current situation at May’s election. David Cameron will not be  happy to see so many backbenchers  rebel on the issue.

Four Welsh MPs, namely Guto Bebb, David Davies, Glyn Davies and Simon Hart, have also backed the motion that “recognises the outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence; welcomes the freely expressed will of the people of Scotland to remain British; notes the proposals announced by Westminster party leaders for further devolution to Scotland; calls on the Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to bring forward proposals that are fair and reasonable for the whole of the United Kingdom, following a period of public consultation to enable people in all parts of the Union to express their views; and, in particular, calls on the Government to ensure that such proposals include a review of the Barnett formula and legislative proposals to address the West Lothian question.”

Many Tory MPs want the issue resolved before the general election because of fears that the SNP may win many more Westminster seats and have greater leverage on devolution issues and on the funding going over Hadrian’s Wall.

These very same backbenchers were in a state of apoplexy at the time of the independence referendum in September when pledges were made by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. Pledges that their constituents were being asked to fund giveaways in Scotland without receiving any reciprocal benefit.

Meanwhile, Owen Smith, the Shadow Welsh Secretary has put his name to an amendment for the “continuation of the Barnett allocation of resources.”  It might endear him to Miliband but puts him out of step with Carwyn Jones.

The Welsh Government is of the view that HM Treasury are short-changing Wales and want it put right. Smith’s stance hardly helps put more cash in the Welsh coffers and allows Plaid Cymru to suggest that Labour is again letting Wales down.

Despite his recent death Lord Barnett’s legacy has a while to run yet, methinks.

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Hobson’s choice

junebudget_ministers22Next May most voters will find themselves forced to endorse further and unnecessary cuts in public services. Why? Because that’s what the two main Westminster parties are offering.

Let’s face it, reducing the size of the public sector has always been a central goal of the Conservative Party. So no surprises there then.

But Labour, what of them. They also have tied themselves into the austerity agenda too. The differences among the parties on eliminating the fiscal deficit are trivial, it’s about how quickly and what to cut.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor has said that under a Labour government there would have to be serious cuts. He doesn’t disagree with the estimate of £30 billion worth of cuts. If so, Ed, where?

You don’t have to be a professional economists to work out where the axe will fall. Why? Because excluding interest on the public debt, welfare, health, education and pensions account for three quarters of government expenditure. So the “tough choices” that the politicians are pushing will be in these areas.

The voter is entitled to ask Balls what he has in mind, Is it benefits cuts for those already on the bread line, cuts to the NHS, cuts to the schools budget or lower pensions. Or a combination of all of them.

The Autumn statement will give us a clue where Osborne’s priority lies. But what about Labour. They too need to come clean and spell out what they’re cutting from the list.

The irony is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, it does for the Tories because they’re ideologically wedded to cutting back on the state. But Labour? Surely not.

If we look at Chancellor Osborne’s record since May 2010 it should show Labour that the direction of travel has been wrong,  to follow the very same route, is folly itself.

When Chancellor Osborne moved into Number 11, the UK public debt was £974 billion (63% of GDP), and at the end of this September, four years and five months later, the debt was £1451 billion (80% of GDP).

This increase of £475 billion exceeded the so-called ballooning of debt under Gordon Brown. During Brown’s period as prime minister, through a massive recession, the public debt rose by £440 billion. Chancellor Osborne beat this with billions to spare.

The chancellor can boast of piling on more debt during his years of “sound fiscal policy.” Budget cuts have proved singularly incapable of reducing public sector net borrowing.

Why? Because expenditure cuts undermine growth. Slow growth means slow revenue recovery. A lesson that Osborne has yet to learn. If it doesn’t work for George  why should Ed think it will work for him?

Strange how politicians haven’t learnt that when you’re in a hole you should stop digging. As for David Cameron’s “red warning lights are flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.”  Yes there are many international reasons that he’s right to be issue the warning. But domestically he should learn that cuts  and over heating the housing market are not the solutions to preventing the economy going into free fall.

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The week that was

9 to 13 November

Wales

Oh dear local government leaders have been told to expect less cash from government towards the running of the WLGA. Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Public Services has just told Councillor Bob Wellington, Leader of the Welsh Local Government Association, there will be no more cash to provide improvement support to Local Authorities in Wales from April 2015 – a cut of £1.62 million. In another shot across local government’s bow he says that the WLGA “should reflect on whether it is right for a membership organisation to receive more than 75% of its income from the Welsh Government.” Is this the start of dismantling the collective voice of local government ahead of cutting their numbers down?

The maths skills of Welsh kids are not up to scratch, according to Estyn – the school inspectors. They found that in just under half of primary and secondary schools inspected in 2013-2014, pupils develop good or better numeracy skills but in the rest “pupils’ numerical skills are at best average.” Responding, Education Minister Huw Lewis  had a go at the schools saying they must show a “greater sense of urgency” to improve the subject. How can the politicians of the future count their chickens unless they have the skills, eh.

Liberal Democrats want to scrap the Severn Bridge tolls. But they failed to get the support of other Assembly members for such a  move. The majority view was that responsibility for the tolls should be transferred to the Welsh Government. Now if that was to happened would they scrap tolls? Unlikely, would any government get rid of what’s a nice little earner.

The Rest

Alex Salmond  has answered  first minister’s questions  for the last time in the Scottish Parliament. Bringing to an end his seven year run at First Minister of Scotland. He will hand the reigns over to Nicola Sturgeon after the SNP conference this weekend. Although Mr Salmond is staying on as MSP for Aberdeenshire East he hasn’t ruled out standing as an MP. Who knows he might be a power broker in Westminster next May. He’s known as the comeback man of politics.

Gordon Brown came out of retirement to fight for the Union now another ex-PM comes out fighting this time to  rescue Cameron from himself. He’s expected to tell Cameron in a speech delivered in Berlin  ‘to tone down the oratory and turn up the diplomacy’.  He also asks the European Union to help the UK limit immigration for fear that a “divorce” between the UK and EU would be “final”. Well, Major knows about Euro-sceptics,  rows over Europe dogged his government. Indeed In 1995 he resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and told his backbench critics to “put up or shut up”. In the event he was re-elected leader. Now there’s an idea for Cameron. See also http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/11/the-alf-of-it/

Ed Miliband is “absolutely” convinced that he can be prime minister and he “absolutely” sees a Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror each morning. Well, he may have convinced himself but he’s a long way to go before he convinces the voters. With just six months to go until the general election, Miliband’s personal ratings have tumbled to minus 44% – said to be the worst score for a party leader since data started to be collect in the 1970s. He’s now more unpopular than Nick Clegg. Now that really is unpopular. See http://welshpolitics.co.uk/2014/11/ed-off/

The Polls

Wednesday

Ipsos MORI/Standard         Con 32%(+2) Lab 29%(-4) LD 9%(+1)  UKIP 14% (-2) Green 7% (+1)

ICM/Guardian         Con 31%(nc) Lab 32%(-3) LD 11%(nc)  UKIP 14% (nc) Green 6% (+2)

Monday

Ashcroft         Con 30%(nc) Lab 29%(nc) LD 10%(nc)  UKIP 16% (nc) Green 7% (+1)

Populus  Con 34% Lab 36%  LD 8% UKIP 13% Green 4%

Sunday

YouGov/Sunday Times  Con 33% Lab 33% LD 7% UKIP 16% Green 6%

Opinium/Observer Con 29%(-4) Lab 32%(-1) LD 9%(+3) UKIP 19%(+1)

Survation Con 29%(+2) Lab 34%(+3) LD 6%(-3) UKIP 23%(-1)

 

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