As Scotland votes no, we demand change to the Barnett Formula
Sep 2014 19
  • Scots receive over £1,600 per person more in public spending
  • Lord Barnett, the former minister who devised the formula, called it a “terrible mistake” and “national embarrassment”
  • TPA also calls for a change to Scottish MPs’ voting rights in Westminster

After the No vote on Scottish independence, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) is calling on Westminster politicians to urgently address the substantial constitutional and financial issues thrown up by the referendum result.
As the polls tightened towards the day of the vote, the leaders of the three main parliamentary parties in London promised to protect the Barnett Formula, which since the 1970s has been used to allocate British taxpayers’ cash between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

However, there is a substantial public spending gap that exists between England and the three home nations with devolved powers – with even Lord Barnett himself, who designed the formula, calling it a “terrible mistake” and “national embarrassment”.

In 2012-13, public spending per head in each of the home nations was:

  • £10,876 in Northern Ireland
  • £10,152 in Scotland
  • £9,709 in Wales
  • £8,529 in England

In an era of devolved government, such spending gaps have become increasingly difficult to justify. Should higher public spending in some home nations be subsidised from taxpayers elsewhere? Why shouldn’t those areas pay for their own promises through higher local taxes?

The Barnett Formula cannot possibly survive. Little more than a crude back-of-the-envelope rule for splitting annual increases in public spending, back in 1978 it was a short-term expedient. It was never designed to last for thirty years and to bear the public scrutiny and resentment it now engenders.

Reform is essential – but politicians have promised to maintain unequal shares.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“The people of Scotland have spoken, but in their last-ditch attempt to save the Union politicians have also saved the unfair Barnett Formula. It is outdated and has spectacularly failed to address the extremely inequitable situation of taxpayers from one home nation heavily subsidising others. English taxpayers want an end to subsidising Scotland and the Scottish Government wants financial control devolved to Holyrood, so now is the ideal time to abolish the Barnett Formula entirely.

“Furthermore, as even more power is set to be handed to the Scottish Parliament, the time has come to end the anomaly of Scottish MPs voting on policy for other parts of the UK where Westminster MPs have no such say North of the border. English votes for English laws is the only fair way to proceed.”

In 2008, TaxPayers’ Alliance Research Fellow, Mike Denham, authored Unequal Shares, a paper examining the Barnett Formula and public spending across the UK. You can read it in full here.

Expensive ‘shared space’ in Bath?
Sep 2014 17

The Council in Bath is planning to spend £1.2m of taxpayers’ money on a ‘shared space’ in the city centre, which according to reports will consist primarily of levelling pavements and kerbs along several streets, and re-paving the area. Now, I can’t say I’ve noticed local residents or traders clamouring for this expenditure – marching along the streets with banners demanding a ‘shared space’ for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. In fact, many are speaking out against it. Continue Reading

Discovering the limits of FOI legislation
Sep 2014 11

For the last year, Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council have repeatedly refused to answer my Freedom of Information (FoI) requests about an alleged matter of wrongdoing by a senior local government officer involving taxpayers’ money. I am now in the process of appealing against their stonewalling. My experience may well be of interest to other TPA supporters encountering similar difficulties and reveals the limits of FoI requests.

Continue Reading

What’s going on in Wroughton?
Sep 2014 10

There is a phantom national museum in southwest England that is supported with taxpayers’ money – and yet taxpayers can only visit by appointment! What is going on?

“The Science Museum gets a lot of taxpayers’ money each year,” says a local TPA supporter, “and part of it goes to maintain an entire airfield and museum at Wroughton, Wiltshire, which no taxpayer has been allowed to see for several years.” Continue Reading

Revealed: The taxpayer-funded £108 million trade union subsidy
Sep 2014 09

 

New research by the TPA can reveal that trade unions received at least £108 million in subsidies from taxpayers in 2012-13, just £5 million less than in 2011-12. Our comprehensive survey shows shows that trade unions received an estimated £85 million in paid staff time (facility time) plus £23 million in direct payments in 2012-13. The research also demonstrates that public bodies are often deducting trade union subscriptions in the payroll process without charging the unions for that additional administrative support, despite union claims to the contrary.

The Cabinet Office has made strides to eliminate facility time, but far more must be done. This report demonstrates why these reforms must go further to include all of the public sector rather than just Whitehall and its quangos. In 2012, the TPA published a legal briefing that made it clear that public sector bodies are failing to control facility time as envisaged by employment law. This latest report reveals that hundreds of public sector bodies are still failing even to record the extent of facility time.

You can read the full report into this scandalous subsidy here.

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

It is simply wrong that taxpayers continue to see their money used to pay thousands of trade union activists who organise strikes which disrupt the services that they rely on and pay for handsomely. Thousands of staff who should be working for the taxpayer are working for the trade unions instead. It’s welcome that the number has fallen, but far more must be done.

Tens of millions of pounds are being wasted and supporting aggressive political campaigns. The Government must crack down on this scandalous subsidy.

 

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