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“Want the cash, well…”

IMG_1290Greater Manchester is going to have a £6bn health and social care budget courtesy of HM Government. It will see NHS England hand spending decisions on regional healthcare to local politicians.

This development changes the shape of local government in England in a way that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. Alas not the kind of offer being made to councils in Wales, but that’s another story.

By taking control of the entire NHS budget, the area’s 10 councils, and ultimately the elected mayor, will be able to join up health and social care in a way that’s never been possible before.

In addition to control of the £2bn of budgets agreed last year for skills and training, transport and planning, the £6bn that comes with this deal means local politicians will decide how more than a quarter of government money is spent in their area.

Meaningful devolution of powers from the centre to the northwest. It’s certainly a policy to be commended. What’s more, it’s all happened without a need for a referendum. Politicians doing what they’re paid for, taking decisions.

Contrast this with what’s rumoured to be happening in Wales.

Wales is disadvantaged under the formula that distributes funds from the centre to the regions and countries of these fair islands. The Scots are getting more than their fair share. It’s the price of keeping them in the Union. In keeping them in, Wales suffers. Wales gets less whilst the Scots get more.

Politicians in the Bay have been banging on about the unfairness of it, almost since Adam left the garden.

Now even those who control the purse strings in London have got the message. Miliband in his speech to Welsh Labour said that the issue of fair funding to Wales would be addressed if he became Prime Minister.

Not to be outdone the Tories have come up with a cunning little wheeze. They’ll sort out the funding gap if, there’s always an ‘if’ when it comes to politicians, the Welsh Government holds a referendum on income tax.

Well, in politics, just as in life, there’s nowt for nowt.  You want the cash then you’ll have to do this.

Conservatives have always taken the view that the Welsh government should take responsibility for raising more of the money it spends.  Fine and dandy but to try to get their way in such a clumsy way is inept.

Now quite why a referendum is needed on tax varying powers is a mystery. Surely, if it makes sense to give the Welsh Government powers over taxation, then it should happen.

Politicians are paid handsomely, despite Rifkins protest, for taking such decisions. If the cost of the referendum was deducted from their collective pay, they might be less ready to pass the buck to the voter.

There’s a name for offering bungs. It’s called bribery. Has public policy come to this?


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