Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The UK’s fiscal and economic model is broken

Mebyon Kernow’s sister party in Wales, Plaid Cymru, has an impressive economic advisor called Eurfyl ap Gwilym. He famously got the better of Jeremy Paxman during one interview, even challenging him to do better research when preparing questions.

Mr ap Gwilym has produced another article which focuses on how the “UK’s fiscal and economic model” is broken.

What he has to say is as relevant to Cornwall as it is to Wales and, in particular, he has focused on how investment in three areas (research and development, transport and the arts) is still “heavily skewed to the South East” of England.

In terms of research and development, he has shown that “business is by far the biggest source of R&D expenditure and this tends to be concentrated in certain sectors (defence and pharmaceuticals) and geographically.”

Looking at the actual figures: “Of the £6.5bn spent on R&D by the higher education sector 59 per cent, or £274 per person was spent in London and the Home Counties. This compares with £83 per person in the rest of England, £86 in Wales and £196 in Scotland. The differences are even more marked in the case of R&D spending by the UK Government and the research councils: of the £2.2bn spent in 2016: £54 per person was spent in London and the Home Counties; £5 per person in Wales and £30 per person in Scotland.”

It has been the same with transport. Mr ap Gwilym has detailed how London has been the “recipient of a disproportionate share of public investment … over decades.” He has also shown how “cumulative spend per person in real terms since 1999-00 has been £7,500 in London compared with £4,100 in Scotland, a mere £3,000 in Wales and £3,700 across the UK as a whole.”

And in his assessment of arts funding, he notes that “despite the fact that private sponsorship of the arts is overwhelmingly concentrated in London,” it is a reality that “public spending is heavily weighted in favour of London as well.”

Mr ap Gwilym’s main reason for, once again, pointing out the inequities of regional funding, was to raise concerns about the repercussions of Brexit and how this would be “likely to push regional policy even further down the list of priorities of the post-Brexit UK Government.”

He is also right to point out that without a fundamental shift, we will see “little improvement in the relative performance” of regional economies outside London and the South East. And that would be a disaster for Cornwall.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

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