Public spending cuts still loom after Brown meeting

The devolved “summit” with Gordon Brown failed to reach any conclusions, so to that extent their lobbying against £1 billion of cuts for the three regions combined was effective. Something more tangible will happen by mid March though, when we will see how effective joint action by the devolved administrations can really amount to when the chips are down. As the Guardian reports, the three claim that the cuts – part of Alistair Darling’s plans for £5bn worth of UK-wide savings to pay for increased spending to tackle the recession and bank bailout – would see Scotland cut by £500m – according to Salmond – Wales lose up to £292m and Northern Ireland between £140m and £200m from 2010 onwards.

Specialists tell me some Scottish savings are viable though Wales and NI would face a harder task. However it’s all very vague. Are we to assume that in NI’s case, new “efficiencies” would come on top of the £200 odd million pledged in the review of public administration, even though implementation has been put off for a year? I wish our local financial journos and other commentators would shed more light on all this. John Simpson -please help! SCOTLAND
Mr Salmond again said the UK Government efficiency drive would cut £500m a year off the Scottish budget. Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy said: “I want to see the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the Northern Irish Assembly and, importantly, the UK Government all tighten their belts in the same way that families across Scotland are doing.”

The Welsh Assembly Government has already warned it could get £500m less from the UK Treasury in the future. A meeting between Gordon Brown and leaders from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland has failed to reach any agreement on proposed budget cuts. Wales First Minister Rhodri Morgan said Mr Brown was now fully aware of their concerns, and that these issues would be discussed further at a key meeting of UK finance ministers in Edinburgh on 12 March, which will also be attended by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper.

Mr McGuinness described the discussions as a “work in progress”.
The Treasury is seeking £5bn in cuts across the regions, which Northern Ireland Finance Minister Nigel Dodds has pledged to resist. Mark Devenport adds:

During the meeting Gordon Brown repeated London’s position that all the devolved administrations should play their part in making efficiencies. Messrs Robinson and McGuinness countered that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had made financial promises at the time devolution was restored which should be honoured. Today’s encounter doesn’t appear to have led to any conclusion.

On the margins of the meeting, the First and Deputy First Ministers again raised the plight of the savers at the Presbyterian Mutual Society. Martin McGuinness says they have a promise from Gordon Brown of another meeting on this subject, but again there’s no sign as yet of any real movement from London on this score.

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