With an election just over 18 months away, Nick Clegg is manoeuvring himself into yet another political minefield. The ‘Silk Commission’ published a report 10 months ago recommending that borrowing and tax raising powers should be devolved to the Welsh Government. All political parties in Wales support this as an idea, however what does it really mean for Welsh taxpayers?
To answer the question, firstly the question of who it benefits has to be asked. If Labour, like the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems get their way, this would allow for a deviation away from the policies of National Government. Instead of austerity and ensuring taxpayers get value for every penny, a potential culture of tax and spend, or this year’s new fad, could quickly take hold. As for borrowing powers, the British taxpayers are all too aware of the consequence of over-borrowing.
Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, claims that the power to control borrowing and taxation would be one of the final steps towards the final devolution settlement. This is a valid point, however, the current arrangement is that the UK Government supplies an annual budget for Wales which Mr Jones and his administration can spend in any which way they see fit.
The problem? Since devolution, the Welsh Government has had more than its fair share of white elephants: from the proposed development of cutting edge race tracks in areas with relatively no infrastructure, to the practically doomed Cardiff International Airport which cost £52m.
For the benefit of Welsh taxpayers, surely all political parties in Wales should concentrate on how they spend the cash they have now in the most cost effective way, as opposed to seeking the power to get their hands on more? In any respect, Nick Clegg instead of calling for further powers to be handed to an ineffective and power hungry administration in Cardiff Bay, should be calling for a sensible approach to the use of taxpayers' money.