Thursday, October 28, 2010

CSR, the Union and the North/South divide.

The Economist churns out an oh, so predictable line:
"Will the government’s spending cuts fray the union?"
The article*, thankfully, follows a slightly more nuanced route:
THE decade after their establishment in 1998-99 was kind to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The budgets doled out from London fattened, and the local politicians won easy approval. The coalition government’s spending cuts have provoked squeals of Celtic protest; they may also affect the outcomes of the elections to the three devolved assemblies that are due next May, and bolster the pressure for changes to the devolution settlements.

Compared to the overall cuts, the spending review wasn’t especially cruel to the devolved regions. Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the Scots will lose 6.8% of their grant, the Northern Irish 6.9% and the Welsh 7.5%. The differences between those figures result from the vagaries of the so-called Barnett formula, based on population, which the Treasury uses to calculate changes to devolved budgets, and from the different responsibilities each devolved administration discharges. But this relative good fortune has not deterred complaints.
Those complaints you know about by now; some justified, the majority populist whinging against what is being lazily sold as the common enemy, "English" "Tories".

Regarding the "fraying" of the Union... well, best way to test that out would be separation referendums and with the honourable exception of the SNP (although even they have opted for a tactical postponement), none of the UK’s various nationalist parties seem too keen on that form of popular democracy at the moment.

Perhaps a more interesting and thought-provoking article could have been based around the headline:
"Will the government’s spending cuts fray the unity of England?"
The IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) this week issued "Well North of Fair: The implications of the Spending Review for the North of England".

The report(pdf) "explores the extent to which the Spending Review will ameliorate or exacerbate the North-South divide".
The answer, as you might have expected, is "exacerbate".

How it recommends that situation could solved is also as you would expect from what was once described as "New Labour's favourite think tank". But the main point to focus on here is their implicit conclusion that if you want real lasting economic prosperity for your region, then you and not just the Central Exchequer have the responsibility for creating the conditions to make it happen. Something for the passive "entitlement junkies" in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to chew over.

* N.Irish readers will be amused with the cartoon. What flag is that exactly Marty is helping to support?!

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