An interesting article appears on the BBC website authored by Robert Peston, entitled: Why does government do less for the North East than Scotland?
In this article Peston notes that:
Poorer English regions, such as the North East, receive more public funding per head than England as a whole – though they still don’t do as well as Scotland. So total public spending on services is £8,529 per head in England, £10,152 in Scotland, and £9,419 in north-east England. As it happens, in the important provision of healthcare, the North East is actually a bit more generously financed than Scotland, receiving £2,066 per head, compared with £2,051 north of the border – though just £1,662 in the South East.
…….. the North East is much poorer than Scotland as a whole, and has a disproportionate number of people out of work and in poor health. So it has been the convention since World War Two that there should be an element of correcting these regional social and economic inequalities in the allocation of public funds. Using gross disposable household income as a proxy for inequality, folk in the north east are 12% poorer than Scots, and yet they receive 7% less money for all public services. Three points immediately arise from this article:
- Perhaps the reason that the North East has a disproportionate number of people out of work is that central government ‘killed’ what employment there was in the North East when they ‘dispensed’ with shipbuilding, coal mining, and glass production – for example in respect of the latter I believe it correct that, originally, a great deal of ‘Pyrex’ production in the UK was located in the North East.
- There may well exist a ‘convention’ to correct regional, social and economic inequalities in the allocation of public funds, but where was the agreement of the remainder of the United Kingdom to such a policy?
- Correction of social and economic inequalities would appear not to be working if it remains that those in the North East are 12% poorer than Scots and yet still receive 7% less money for public services
If taxation is to fund the social and economic care of those in an area then should it not be the decision of those in that area? If one area is suffering social and economic deprivation then is it not for those in that area to decide what taxes, if any, should be raised to pay for the services required – and how they are implemented – to rectify the problems ensuing?
As this article from East Sussex County Council shows, less than a quarter of all local expenditure is raised by council tax, the remainder coming from central government in the form of grants. Then of course there is the ‘bidding process‘ by which additional funds can be made available for businesses. Let us not forget, too, the bureaucratic cost of this massive redistribution of centrally collected funds.
If, for example, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are formed by businesses and local authorities to bring business and civic leaders together to drive sustainable economic growth and create the conditions for private sector job growth in their communities, then why not cut out the middle man, ie LEPs and have local politicians earn their keep?
If local authorities can collect business rates on behalf of central government, why cannot they collect all taxation, deducting that which they need and pass the remainder to central government? If all matters other than defense of the realm, foreign relations, immigration for example were devolved to local authorities, would not the process of tax collection be simplified? Yes, for sure you would have two levels of taxation – local and national – but so what? Plus, by means of each tax take being subject to a previously published estimate on which the electorate could agree or reject, at least they would have had the courtesy of being asked prior to having to pay.
The idea of ‘Referism’ (taxation by and with representation) is part of The Harrogate Agenda and by clicking here you can find, in the left-hand sidebar, each of the 6 Demands explained in a simplified, logical manner.
If we are to have ‘localism’ then let us have it – and not the centrally controlled, faux, localism that will no doubt be foisted on us. After all, they have true localism in Switzerland and it works well – so why not here?