Local Government Funding
Readers will be well accustomed to my critique of the British Government’s custom of creative accounting and in particular the manner in which headline grabbing pledges not to increase income tax are paid for by indirect taxes which disproportionately favour the rich.
During a debate in the House of Commons this week on local government funding I highlighted how the Labour Welsh Government have also learnt similar tricks.
The Wales Fiscal Analysis produced by the Wales Governance Centre (Cardiff University) highlights how Welsh Councils have faced accumulative cuts of a billion pounds (£918.5m to be exact) in real terms over the last decade from the Labour Government. This equates to 20% in lost funding for our Councils.
Faced with block grant cuts from London, the Labour Government have decided to swing the axe at Local Authorities. This is because they have an independent revenue stream in the form of Council Tax.
Responsible for delivering core services such as education, rubbish collection and social care, hard-pressed Councils are now increasingly reliant upon local taxation to fund their services. Council tax now accounts for 20% of funding as opposed to 13% a decade ago and is projected to grow further.
Part of the reason for the growing pressure on Welsh Councils is the need for the Welsh Government to ringfence funding for the NHS as Westminster imposes a budget squeeze on Wales.
Yet at a time when our future is supposedly back in our own hands after leaving the European Union, Welsh MPs this week were treated with a heavy dose of reality in our unequal, disunited Kingdom.
In a moment of high drama in the Commons this week Welsh MPs were banned from voting on the NHS Funding Bill. Although the Bill determined funding for the NHS in England, it directly affects NHS funding in Wales due to the way the Barnett formula works.
My Plaid Cymru colleagues and I protested and voted anyway, though our votes weren’t counted in the official record. It is an example of the complicated and increasingly confrontational approach of the British State to Welsh institutions and the principles of devolution.
Essentially Welsh MPs are now second-class representatives in the House of Commons, proof beyond doubt that Westminster doesn't work for Wales.