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Great Expectations

Betsan Powys | 10:13 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010

Expectations. My theory? Never a mistake to dampen them down.

Years ago my brother had a friend who went home from college over Christmas and hinted to her parents that she was pregnant and had spent her entire grant already. Grant? As I said, it was many years ago.

They turned very pale until she told them that actally, she wasn't pregnant, nor was she broke but she had failed her first term exams. She found her parents weren't terribly concerned.

The other day I bumped into a Welsh Lib Dem who was pretty confident that the coalition deal, published today, would have some sweeteners for Wales - and for Welsh Lib Dems - in it. Holtham was mentioned. Not sure what would be in there but it was all looking pretty promising.

So what is in there they can point to and wave at Plaid and Labour?

Not an awful lot. Clearly nothing about devolved issues - there wouldn't be. And yes, everything that's said about issues that aren't devolved are, of course, relevant to Wales.

But what about some specific goodies he'd hoped for, like taking forward the recommendations of the Holtham Commission?

This is what the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto said they would do:

"Replace the current Barnett formula for allocating funding to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments with a new needs-based formula, to be agreed by a Finance Commission fo the National and Regions"

What does the coalition document say?

"We recognise the concerns expressed by the Holtham Commission on the system of devolution funding. However, at this time, the priority must be to reduce the deficit and therefore any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances".

When might that be? No time soon, certainly.

The document goes on to say:

"Depending on the outcome of the forthcoming referendum, we will establish a process similar to the Calman Commission for the Welsh Assembly".

It'll be instructive to see how the Welsh Liberal Democrats bridge the divide in language and substance of the two documents.

By the way the coalition document also pledges to "take forward the Sustainable Homes Legislative Competence Order" and to "support" further electrification of the railways. Neither sound like water-tight, here-you-go pledges to me.

The next time a Welsh Lib Dem hints that they're pregnant and broke ...


This is the response from Welsh Lib Dem leader, Kirsty Williams

"Along with the benefits the people of Wales will see from a Conservative-Liberal Democrat UK government, like lower taxes for workers and a fairer pension settlement for older people, these commitments in this document demonstrate the clear contrast between this active government and the idleness of the past 13 years of the Labour government.

"Making sure that housing powers are devolved to the Assembly, supporting further electrification of the railways and setting up a Commission to look at funding for Wales are all issues the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been fighting for and I am pleased that the UK government has shown commitment to Wales and Welsh devolution by announcing these commitments today".


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