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Government's method of sharing out cash in UK a 'mockery', claims report

By Noel McAdam

The Government's method of sharing out cash across the United Kingdom is branded a "mockery" in a Parliamentary report today.

A House of Lords committee said the formula which decides Northern Ireland's portion of the Block Grant from Westminister should be reviewed because it is "inadequate".

Instead a mechanism which takes into account the relative needs of different parts of the UK should be established, the peers' report concluded.

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The so-called 'Barnett Formula' - named after former Labour Treasury Minister Joel Barnett, who reputedly drew it out on a cocktail napkin in the 1970s - has already come in for trenchant criticism.

A 2009 report from the House of Lords Select Committee recommended its replacement, but it remains in place.

Today's report, however, said to perpetuate the Barnett method "makes a mockery of the Government's duty to ensure a fair distribution of resources across the UK."

The investigation by the House of Lords Constitution Committee says devolution has been "demand-led" in each of the UK regions, putting a growing question-mark over the Union itself. "Successive UK Governments have taken the Union for granted, without giving proper consideration to the cumulative impact of devolution on the UK as a whole.

"The time has come to change that," the peers added.

While the Stormont Assembly already has a large range of powers "it is possible, following the devolution of Corporation Tax, that there may be calls for other powers to be devolved there".

But believing "the nations of the UK are stronger together than apart" the Lords argue that any future devolution "must not be at the expense of the stability, coherence and viability of the Union".

The report also urged Westminster to undertake a thorough review of the Civil Service, including how all the devolved administrations "can be more effectively and more consistently involved in policy development.

"Civil servants in Whitehall departments must consider how they can engage with their counterparts in the devolved administrations - (working) towards a situation where policy is developed in consultation and collaboration.

"Where different policy choices are made, it is important that the different administrations work together to consider the potential cross-border impacts or UK-wide effects of those choices."

Belfast Telegraph


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