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"Horizontal equity"

Betsan Powys | 12:11 UK time, Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A busy day. Making sense of the "interpenetration" of the Welsh and UK economies and quest for "horizontal equity" leaves little time to blog, sadly.

A few quotes and thoughts:

First of all - a direct hit dealt by Commission Chairman, Gerald Holtham, at the UK coalition document that links reform to funding with the result of the referendum next March:

"The question of funding is completely separate from the question of powers. There's no connection - no connection at all."

On fiscal accountability: "If you accept that the principle of fiscal accountability, then it applies in Scotland, it applies in Wales, it applies in Timbuktu."

How much income tax revenue are we talking about here? For how much would the Assembly Government, in fact, be accountable? Half the income tax take in Wales is just over £2b. How much extra money do you get if you put, say, 1p on the basic rate of income tax in Wales? No more than £150m.

Might politicians not conclude that for that amount, the political grief just ain't worth it?

There are, says Gerry Holtham, "uncomfortable aspects" to the Commission's proposals published today. Will their report end up being given what the Assembly Government called "detailed consideration" on a shelf somewhere in Cathays Park? "I don't know where the political forces will settle but I truly believe it's under serious consideration".

Just as he repeated that on the lunchtime bulletin, a seagull targetted his bag. "Ah you see" said the Chairman: "a sign of good luck!" Off he went to do battle with Newsnight Scotland.

The SNP's take on Mr Holtham's version of "horizontal equity?" Full fiscal autonomy or bust. "Anything less would be messy and unsustainable, and could well leave Scotland worse off."

The Commission press conference gives way to the Conservative lobby briefing. Nick Bourne takes over Mr Holtham's seat. So what did he make of that "no connection at all" quote?

A direct hit, first, at Labour for having done nothing to change the Barnett formula while they were in power. If action is so urgent now, why was it not when their hands were on the levers of power? Then a curious response to Mr Holtham: "There is a clear political connection, even if there is no logical one". Mmm. The sort of answer that needs "detailed consideration."


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