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UK ‘too centralised’ and should roll out ‘devo-max’ says Conservative MP

17 Jun 2022 3 minute read
Jake Berry. Picture by David Woolfall (CC BY 3.0).

The UK is “one of the most centralised countries in the world” and the UK Government should adopt a “devo-max” approach to the regions, a Conservative MP has said.

Jake Berry, the chairman of the Conservatives’ Northern Research Group (NRG) of MPs, said that the formula that decides how much spending Wales and Scotland get per head should also apply to the north of England.

Only a radical levelling-up agenda to keep hold of the red-wall voters who turned to the Tories in 2019, the Lancashire MP said.

Jake Berry told the NRG’s inaugural conference in Doncaster: “This [2019] sea-change isn’t permanent and it would be a mistake to believe it was an unconditional vote for the Conservative Party.”

He outlined a three-point plan which called for a levelling-up formula for English regions on the same basis as the Barnett formula, which adjusts funding to Scotland and Wales, noting that spending in London is 15% higher per head than the UK average.

The Barnett formula is a mechanism used by the Treasury ito automatically adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to reflect changes in spending levels allocated to public services in England.

Mr Berry said: “We must end this system that prioritises investment in the south east over all other area of the country.”

The Rossendale and Darwen MP said: “A levelling-up formula wouldn’t just do that for the north. It would be like the Barnett formula, which has helped send money to the devolved nations for years.”

He said: “This is an idea from the north that can truly unite and level up our nation.”

He added: “Whilst people and communities in the north have been crying out for grassroots change, all Whitehall as given us is Astroturf. If levelling-up is to mean anything, it must be radical.

“That means an end to incremental government, and end to the conservation of southern privilege because, whether they like it or not, this is our new political reality.”

‘Devo-max’

Jake Berry also said the Government needed to accelerate the movement of Whitehall functions out of London, saying the idea that key operations needed to remain in the capital had become a barrier to change.

Referring to the plan to move some Treasury functions and staff to Darlington, Mr Berry told the conference: “Instead of a Treasury based in Westminster with a northern campus, why not have Treasury based in Darlington with a campus in London – a sort of civil service Whitehall hub with government departments moved to the regions?”

He said: “The pace of change is just too slow.”

Mr Berry said devolved regions needed the power to lower taxes, pointing out that the north has an economy bigger than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined – equivalent to the ninth largest economy in Europe.

He said: “In short we want to build an economy that is more Canary North and less Canary Wharf.”

The former Northern Powerhouse minister criticised Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy of aiming for 50% of school leavers to attend university, saying it had failed Britain’s youth.

He called for academic and vocational education to have an “equal footing” and said he wanted to see new educational establishments in the north based on skills training, which he referred to as “Voxbridge”.


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The Original Mark
The Original Mark
3 months ago

The Barnett formula was only meant to be a temporary solution, it is outdated and needs a complete overhaul, and on top of that, Mr Berry is conflating a region that is part of England with two different countries that make up part of the UK

Arwyn
3 months ago

Barnett is a symptom of the problem and not its solution. Any solution to the UK’s constitution begins and ends with Nation States for Wales, Scotland and England. It’s the bit inbetween that needs discussing.

This is interesting – a compromise I could live with.

https://www.iwa.wales/agenda/2022/03/a-strategic-compromise/

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
3 months ago
Reply to  Arwyn

Thanks for the link. Very interesting and perhaps a good route forward.

Richard
Richard
3 months ago

I’ve only met JB once in a Darren service station while he was a PCC…..we both had more hair in those days….😧. I’ve got to say I was impressed at his different view on a range of stuff and how he appeared a genuine advocate of regional voice for his nation. His disinterested view of personal political preferment and plugging a policy direction well outside the young Tory policy bubble has given him a justifiable attention level outside the usual ‘ red wall ‘ batch of new ( and I would guess temporary in most cases ) Intake . His… Read more »

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard

JB – Jake Berry or Joel Barnett?

(It would make sense to say the latter with regards to ‘the hair issue’ …)

However, be it noted that Joel Barnett is on record of saying that his eponymous formula is no longer fit for purpose.

Richard
Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  Welsh_Siôn

JB is MP for Darwen

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
3 months ago

Bit late I feel for Devo-Max. The independence horse has bolted. The United Kingdom is a facade. The reality is England created this false Union out of conflict by initially invading Wales in 1282, then in 1535 & 1543 ethnically cleansed Britain’s native people, which today would be deemed a war crime, before forcing a knife to the throats of Scotland with the Act of Union of 1707 and later Ireland in 1801, who then become satilite states with dominant England at its center, thus the United Kingdom was born, before Ireland came to its senses and left in 1922… Read more »

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
3 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Be warned … it’s another ‘vow’ in the offing from Westminster.

And if they reneged on that one prior to the September 2014 in Scotland, you can bet on the absolute certainty that this lot will not keep the terms of any such vow this time. Constitutional criminals the lot of them, especially that ‘greased piglet’ who we see in Ukraine, today.

I’m with you, Y Cymro and I guess many other contributors are too.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
3 months ago

The hypocrite that is R2D2 complains about the expansion of our Senedd and within days, wants ‘clear blue water’ between his gang and that of his masters, who don’t even know his name, to try and secure more seats in our expanded Parliament. Jake Berry, making what seems a refreshing stand against his bosses but sadly quoting the outdated Barnett formula, asks for ‘devo max’. Both have demonstrated their knowledge of the direction of travel on this island and both belong to the ‘Conservative and UNIONIST party’, the party doing the most sterling work in smashing up their own precious… Read more »

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
3 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

It is interesting to hear that these views have been aired at a Tory Conference. That they are many years behind the reality on the ground is a pity. Devo max was talked about around the time of the Scottish Referendum and, as other posters have said, the Brnett formula is well past its sell by date. Being positive, something beyond Devo Max such as regional devolution within England and full independence in the other countries would be better than the latter going off singly and doing a series of Brexit tribute acts. Keeping us all together in a single… Read more »

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