Conference progress on a Federal UK: levelling up the Liberal Democrat way

As a member of the Policy Working Group chaired by John Shipley, delivering the motion F21 A Framework for England in a Federal UK, I volunteered to write this follow-up to Sunday’s Conference debate. This is my consolation prize for disconnecting my audio and embarrassingly failing to speak in the debate myself – somewhat riling, given my work on regionalism and federalism since 2015.

It seems, however, that I need not have worried about the result from a personal perspective. After a clear, explanatory opening speech by Prue Bray, many contributors spoke in favour of a strong tier of English regions constitutionally equivalent to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as states of a federal UK, providing for a union that would work better in terms of fairness, localism, empowerment, democratic accountability and, importantly, creating constitutional stability between the home nations.

This is not to say that the Working Group’s views were unanimous. We recognised the need to present several options, not just one proposal. We excluded English regions with separate legal jurisdictions, as different from each other as Scotland is from England, as lacking popularity and seen by some as dangerous. The choice was between a single English state or a set of regional states and then a further decision on the nature of an all-England legislature. By a two-thirds majority Conference chose regional federal states and an English legislature separate from the federal structure, formed by regional representatives rather than a directly elected national body.

Accompanying that, Conference endorsed a Union in which at least half of tax revenue would be spent by sub-national bodies, competing with Canada and Germany as two of the most fiscally decentralised countries. We also outlined – not exhaustively – the sort of powers that the federal states should have.

Our answer to the Tories’ “levelling up” is that we have an actual plan: a massive shift in power towards local and regional authorities and a fair distribution of resources across England and the UK as a whole, taking money away from Whitehall and giving more local control over finances.

We must note, however, what both Prue and John made clear in the debate: this is only a step in the journey towards a federal UK, resolving one pressing structural issue. We must make further policy to arrive at a comprehensive, self-consistent and practicable federal model we can put to the people. So, what do we need to do next?

Firstly, we have proposed a fully regionalised England but not demonstrated the route to devising the number of regions and their boundaries. We need a model for a consensual process balancing local identities against modern social and economic realities, balancing urban and rural populations sensibly, and other criteria.

Secondly, we have not discussion the composition of an upper house of parliament, a senate representing the states to complement the lower house (Commons) representing the people directly. We can’t fully answer that until we know how many states there are, i.e. how many English regions. Should the Senate be constituted and populated like the German Bundesrat, or in other ways?

Thirdly, we have proposed significant fiscal decentralisation, and for this we must demonstrate how tax revenue, national wealth and resources should be distributed fairly between the stronger and weaker states and also how such expenditure and distribution relates to the extent of powers held by the various tiers of government.

Fourthly, it has been suggested that Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies be allowed to apply for full membership of a federal UK just as various far-flung territories are integral parts of the French state. A federal UK should be a flexible and forward-looking beast.

Let us maintain momentum and develop more pieces of the federalist jigsaw, including the issues outlined above. We have demonstrated this can be done in a stepwise fashion. First though, it’s time for a breather after this successful stage of a labour of love. I shall sit back and listen to Duke Ellington’s “A Chromatic Love Affair” which, of course, is one in which you take things a half step at a time.

* Michael Kilpatrick is a member.

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41 Comments

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '21 - 12:44pm

    …….we have an actual plan: a massive shift in power towards local and regional authorities and a fair distribution of resources across England and the UK as a whole, taking money away from Whitehall and giving more local control over finances.

    This sounds somewhat contradictory.

    “A fair distribution over the UK as whole” has to involve a strong central government calling the shots.

    “Allowing more local control over finances” would only work if the prosperous areas voluntarily handed over their surplus cash to the less prosperous ones. You’d have to be wearing your Lib Dem issue rose tinted spectacles to ever see this as a realistic possibility.

    In other words, taking money away from Whitehall is only going to reduce the necessary redistribution which is essential for levelling up. If some areas go up, others need to come down, at least relatively, and Lib Dems seem to be reluctant to acknowledge this.

  • John Marriott 23rd Sep '21 - 1:30pm

    I reckon England could be divided up into six to eight regions, North West, North East, West Midlands, East Midlands, East Anglia, South West, South East, Greater London. The $64,000 question is where you draw the boundaries. Each would have an assembly elected by PR. Below that would be directly elected Unitary and Town/Neighbourhood Councils. There would be a directly elected Federal Government at Westminster, and a Senate peopled with nominees from the English Regions and the other three nations of the UK, acting purely as a revising chamber for federal legislation.

    As Peter Martin correctly points out, not all regions/nations are equal in terms of wealth, so there would have to be a distributive element in any federal budget. As to areas going up and down in terms of taxation, that surely should depend on their electorate. Such decisions should be made as locally as possible.

  • Iain Donaldson 23rd Sep '21 - 2:19pm

    The constitutional settlement of the UK has been in the making since the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the creation of Bede’s England, Bernicia, between the waters of Leith and the Tees with its capitals at Edinburgh and Bambrugh in the fifth century AD.

    All the way it has been done step by step, and so continuing this process step by step would seem more than appropriate.

    Turning from the past to today, there are already many services that are delivered at the Regional and Sub-regional level such as health, energy, water, agriculture, and environmental protection and yet there is no clear democratic oversight from the people whose lives they affect. What the Liberal Democrats have done here is demonstrate a clear structure in which that democratic oversight can be embedded.

    On the point raised by Peter Martin I would draw his attention to the paragraph in which Michael says that “Thirdly, we have proposed significant fiscal decentralisation, and for this we must demonstrate how tax revenue, national wealth and resources should be distributed fairly between the stronger and weaker states and also how such expenditure and distribution relates to the extent of powers held by the various tiers of government.”

    The present system, the Barnett Formula, currently favours Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but it does not favour the Regions of England in the same way. Indeed the North of England receives significantly less funding per capita than London and the South East.

    That said, the Conservatives talk a lot about their ‘levelling up agenda’ without ever mentioning that ‘If some areas go up, others need to come down’ and we need to be challenging them on that. If a strong Central Government were capable of delivering the levelling up agenda then the fact we have had a strong Central Government in the UK certainly since the Act of Union, and probably since Tudor times would suggest that there would now be no need for levelling up. Clearly strong Central Government is not and has never been the answer.

  • Iain Donaldson 23rd Sep '21 - 2:20pm

    A Federal Government in which our National Government can focus on national matters such as defence, trade and security; our State Governments can focus on internal matters such as energy, education, housing, law and order and health with actual democratic oversight over these important issues; and local government can focus on service delivery and local innovations without constantly looking over their shoulders to see what the next power grab from Westminster might be; we will be able to have politicians who can focus on what they are elected to do.

    When people voted in the European Referendum to take back power, they knew what they were voting for, and the Liberal Democrat proposals for a Federal United Kingdom in which power is exercised by the people for the people as close to the people as is practicable will take that power back to the people.

    This is the first of a number of Liberal Democrat policies that will address Brexit from a Liberal Democrat perspective, but it will also bring us in line with the Commonwealth Countries, the USA and yes the European Union many of whom already operate federal systems of government and with all of whom we need now to build strong international relationships.

    A truly federal United Kingdom will give clear identity and security not only to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, a clear alternative to the separatism of the nationalists and the centralism of the Conservatives, but also the the regions of England.

    Not only will this policy form the foundation for the future prosperity and security of this United Kingdom, but it will also enable the national government to focus entirely on delivering the new relationships that we need to forge in this post Brexit era.

    Now we have decided that we want Regional States in England we can begin to work on what those might be, and how wealth can be fairly redistributed between them. For the record though, despite the North receiving considerably less funding than London, had we been a country in our own right we would have been the tenth largest economy in Europe.

    All things are relative, and this is a relatively good start to finishing the job that those Radical, Liberals and Reformists started over 200 years ago.

  • Peter, if a strong central government were calling the shots and deciding any funding settlements itself then firstly it would have no guarantee of being a fair distribution and secondly it wouldn’t be much of a federal constitution to begin with. Half the point is that the central government should control neither the existence of, the powers of, nor the relative funding of, any federal nations, regions, etc, on its own transient whim.

  • Hello again, John M. I think we should best avoid a discussion delving into our opinions of particular regions and their number in that fashion.

    That is not to say you are incorrect in the end result likely being “between six to eight” regions, although I would suggest that anything up to a dozen is just as possible, rational and practicable, and that any fewer than six seems highly unlikely.

    What we need, as expressed only briefly in the article, is to define the process and the criteria by which the regions can be determined. Such a process must have a strong consensual element. It must also have some top-down oversight to guarantee everyone gets a fair crack of the whip. It must have criteria which express, but do not dictate, what constitutes a good or bad solution in various respects. One simple criteria might simply say “no single region of England should contain over half of the population or GDP of England” for example.

    Such a process might be iterative. It might involve referendums or other forms of direct consultation. It might be a design-from-scratch or it might be a process which says “here are a couple of broad starting points (one could be the former 9 EU regions, another could suggest one region for the entire North), for example): please choose which one you think is best and then suggest how it should be tweaked to suit your district/county better”.

    Rinse and repeat. etc.

    This has to be about process, not a circular discussion on your favourite or mine.

  • Paul Barker 23rd Sep '21 - 4:59pm

    The big gap that strikes me in this debate is how all this relates to what other Parties are thinking – if any of this is ever going to happen then it will be under a Westminster Government dominated by Labour.
    Such a big change needs to have wide support across the Political spectrum – are we talking to other Parties about this ?

  • This seems to be solely a Lib Dem obsession, along with P.R. land tax and basic income universal.or otherwise, fair enough this a Lib Dem site. I see no significant appetite or desire any where else in the politocal spectrum (possibly the greens might agree but that would be of little import in the grand scheme of things).
    I just don’t see this happening for along time if ever probably Northern Ireland forming a union with the Republic with Scotland and Wales each looking to become independent would seem more likely.
    Clearly a lot of work has gone in to this, I just wonder who you consulted and if any consultation included people outside the party. I know no one who has ever been polled or consulted on their opinion re a federal U.K. of any kind let alone what is described here, I wouldn’t vote yes.

  • John Marriott 23rd Sep '21 - 7:24pm

    @Justin
    It might sound the height of arrogance but the great English (yes ENGLISH) public doesn’t really bother about such things – and quite right too. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea.

    You are quite right about one thing, though. Nobody has ever really bothered to ask people what they think. However, you need to explain your case first. The real problem is that we have a basically politically illiterate electorate, the reason being that politics is largely viewed as a dirty word amongst ‘real’ people.

  • Brad Barrows 23rd Sep '21 - 7:39pm

    The big flaw is the idea of an unelected English parliament that would be responsible for passing laws and legislation. Ironic that a Party with ‘Democratic’ in its name could argue for such an option.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Sep '21 - 7:40pm

    “we have proposed significant fiscal decentralisation, and for this we must demonstrate how tax revenue, national wealth and resources should be distributed fairly”
    This is crucial. However, as Iain Donaldson points out, “the North of England receives significantly less funding per capita than London and the South East”, and I can easily imagine that rectifying this would provide an electoral challenge for the Lib Dems given where the party is strongest and where it is targeting seats. For example, the campaign strategy in Chesham & Amersham gave the impression of being based upon self-interest and conservatism, and this sort of radical and redistributive approach could be a much harder sell in those areas.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '21 - 7:46pm

    @ Michael Kilpatrick,

    First of all you’re right in saying that there are never any guarantees of fairness or that either central or regional governments will do their jobs properly.

    But your concept that the Federal Govt can have a ‘hands off’ policy and rely on some form of constitution will never work. This is making the same mistake as we see made in the Eurozone. The individual nations can’t control the whole of the currency area on their own, though Germany may perhaps come the closest, so we see the ECB becoming the de facto Govt of the Eurozone area. Not that it wants to be that, but every common currency area needs a Govt to administer it. The ECB controls the creation of euros, and it is only the actions of the ECB, because they alon have this power, which has kept the eurozone afloat through the crises of firstly the 2008 GFC and its aftermath and recently the Covid 19 pandemic.

    Situations change and central Govt should aim to respond correctly. For example, Northern Ireland could start to boom when the EU recovers from the Pandemic because they are in the Single market and we, in the rUK, aren’t. On the other hand it could slump because the the EU may not do too well and the single market benefits are outweighed by the restrictions on trade with the mainland. We just don’t know at the moment. We do need central government, whether it be in the present form or in some future Federal structure to do its job properly and make the correct fiscal changes as required. ie More money needs to go in if it is doing relatively badly wrt the rUK and less if it is doing better.

    @Iain Donaldson,

    “The present system, the Barnett Formula, currently favours Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but it does not favour the Regions of England in the same way. Indeed the North of England receives significantly less funding per capita than London and the South East.”

    I wouldn’t disagree. But if the system in the regions is going to be improved it has to be done with the consent of central government. The Barnett formula can be influenced by the negotiations between the Scottish government and Westminster but ultimately Westminster controls the currency and it has the ultimate say. It will be the same for any Barnett type formula to be applied in the regions too.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Sep '21 - 7:55pm

    @Justin “I see no significant appetite or desire any where else in the political spectrum”
    Not as such, but there are strong feelings of a lack of fairness between the regions that drive talk about “levelling up”, “Northern powerhouse”, etc., and the party could exploit this (taking a leaf from the UKIP playbook!) to present a federal UK as the solution. However, I fear that there is “no significant appetite or desire” for it in Lib Dem target constituencies (other than, perhaps, as a way to reduce redistribution and keep northerners at arm’s length :-)), which might be a bigger challenge for the party and for those trying to promote it within the party (despite winning a conference vote).

  • @ John Marriott, I was going to say that’s quite a statement! and it is, but, on reflection, you may have a point.

    @Peter Martin, l think the northern power house idea with mayor’s is one thing, the regionalisation of England in a federal U.K. model may be a lot more difficult to sell although you may also have a point, anything to keep the northeners at bay 🙂.

  • John Marriott 24th Sep '21 - 8:01am

    @Justin
    And I’ll go further…

    Politicians always promise the Earth. They never concede that they might be wrong. In fact, they rarely accept it when they are proved wrong. “Do as I say; not do as I do” (Face mask wearing in the H of C, for example). They always rubbish their opponents’ ideas. Only THEY have the answer. No wonder people find them a creepy lot.

    Do you get my drift?

  • David Craddock 24th Sep '21 - 9:10am

    The motion passed at conference is hugely important as it sets us apart from both Labour and Tories both of which are very centralised in their approach. Linking this to the levelling up agenda means that we have credible and sustainable plan rather that Troy tokenism which I’m sure the electorate wil realise.

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Sep '21 - 9:21am

    Iain Donaldson
    “When people voted in the European Referendum to take back power, they knew what they were voting for”
    Did they really?

  • David Evans 24th Sep '21 - 9:52am

    Nonconformist – You ask “When people voted in the European Referendum to take back power, they knew what they were voting for”
    Did they really?

    I think they did. The problem is that for the vast majority of them didn’t get anything like what they voted for.

  • @Iain Donaldson
    “The present system, the Barnett Formula, currently favours Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but it does not favour the Regions of England in the same way”

    Marie Spowart of the Fraser of Allander Institute told the BBC programme More or Less some months ago that Yorkshire with the same population as Scotland received the same level of support as Scotland receives under the Barnett formula. Indeed all areas outside the South East and East of England receive some extra support.

  • John Marriott 24th Sep '21 - 10:14am

    I am extremely reluctant to engage with Peter Martin on matters of the fiscal nature. From his many assertions he has probably forgotten more about taxation and its implementation than I have ever known. What interests me is his absolute conviction that he is right and that the rest of us liberals are wrong.

    Peter makes no secret of the fact that he is not ‘a liberal’, let alone a Liberal Democrat. However, by identifying with the Labour Party, albeit as one who has rather fallen out of love with it in its present manifestation,, whose relevance has waned as many of the things it stood for have become reality, he still exhibits the ‘dirigiste’ tendency that most Labour supporters and activists seem to exhibit, namely that they know what is best for the rest of us – a slightly more democratic ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. However, the trouble is that the stupid public just doesn’t understand.

    I admire Katharine Pindar’s loyalty to the cause of Liberal Democracy. Her latest piece in LDV demonstrates clearly her vision; but I’m not sure that she can be certain that it’s shared by all of us, who have campaigned for the cause over many decades. Oh what it is to have certainty in your life!

    Back to devolution, though. Whereas Peter Martin is prepared to lecture us about what is fiscally possible and what is not – and, by the way, this has nothing to do with the EU – that train has left the station, I am frankly not that certain. One thing I am certain about is that, economically, politically and environmentally, we are in a bit of a mess! When it comes to regional government, I don’t want a central/federal government acting like the proverbial ‘helicopter parent’. I want my children to make mistakes. In other words, give them the cash, or the ability to raise the cash to do what the people they represent want them to do. If they get it wrong, they will be punished in the ballot box and then they might learn the art of the possible.

  • Rif Winfield 24th Sep '21 - 10:22am

    The problem with having a “strong central government” is that human nature always decrees that – wherever you site the centre of government – it is inevitable that those who live in or close to that centre will favour their own vicinity when it comes to the apportionment of resources, simply because the needs of that immediate vicinity are most obvious to them on a daily basis. This is why London and the southeast of England have always attracted the majority of the dynamism in economic (and human) growth. This has been the experience for centuries of the “peripheries” in the British Isles – Ireland, Scotland and Wales most obviously, but also Cornwall, Cumbria and the Northeast of England, and (albeit to a lesser extent) the rest of the north and centre of England. A central government will only work to “level up” if it is removed from London and the Southeast, and frankly those areas will always veto such a move.

    Liberals – particularly those in England – also need to understand the difference between national identity and regionalism. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not simply further-flung regions of England, but distinct cultural entities with identities of their own. Please appreciate too that Scotland and Wales have their own regions within those nations – just like England has – and that those regions are just as much seeking their individual futures as are those of England.

  • Peter Martin 24th Sep '21 - 10:50am

    @ John,

    “Peter makes no secret of the fact that he is not ‘a liberal’”

    No this isn’t true. I’m more liberal than most Lib Dems on issues or race, sexuality, freedom of speech, even the workings of the ‘free’ market providing we understand the essential role the Govt plays in it. It’s just that I’m not in the Lib Dems. I’m a ‘liberal’ socialist but sometimes wonder why I’m in the Labour Party!

  • Nonconformistradical 24th Sep '21 - 11:07am

    “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not simply further-flung regions of England, but distinct cultural entities with identities of their own.”

    Indeed – and much more so than England – for which entity I struggle to see any cultural identity at all.

  • Rif Winfield makes a valid point, but the purpose of the policy motion last week was to determine only the arrangement we would propose for England within a federal UK. Many people say that Scotland is too centralised. But it was not for us to suggest that Scotland could be represented within a federal UK by a number of regions rather than as a single nation. The Scottish Lib Dems could, of course, debate such a thing if they wished. Many Scottish Lib Dems I know appreciate the idea of having regions of England as federal states rather than a single English state. The imbalance in a simple four-nation union is obvious and the many flaws and problems with such a thing were described back in 2014 in the Policy Paper 117 passed by Lib Dem Conference.

    With Wales and Scotland having the smaller populations they do, and having a particular need to assert national identity as junior partners to an overbearing England, it seems inevitable that Scotland and Wales would remain as single “federal states” even if this means that internally they remain too centralised for the likes of some. However, I don’t know anyone (who pays more than a passing thought to the real world) who considers Scotland to be a “region of England”.

  • John Marriott 24th Sep '21 - 11:39am

    @Peter Martin
    You know, a bit of humility actually suits you!

    @Justin
    And………Why, when asked a straightforward question, politicians hardly ever give a straightforward answer? Remember Paxman v Howard on ‘Newsnight’ a few years ago?

  • Whatever form of government might be beneficial for the UK in the future, and I hope that for future generations any change will enhance their quality of life, speaking as someone of rather advanced years, I wish something could be done to solve the many problems facing our country right now! A proper and constructive opposition to the present government would go a long way to making this grumpy old man a little happier.

  • Peter Martin 24th Sep '21 - 12:56pm

    “When it comes to regional government, I don’t want a central/federal government acting like the proverbial ‘helicopter parent’. ”

    Ok well just find a model that works for a net importing country like the UK and copy that. The qualification of ‘net importing’ isn’t that hard to understand. If we buy more from overseas than they buy from us then it must follow that ££ will leave the economy to pay for the difference.

    If you set up regional governments and tell them to balance their books they won’t be able to do it. Their economies will spiral ever downwards because of the net loss of ££
    This is why it is incorrect to say ” this has nothing to do with the EU “. The EU will be our main trading partner for the foreseeable future. It is also run by net exporting junkies and there’s no sign they’ll kick their habit any time soon.

  • David Evans 24th Sep ’21 – 9:52am…………….Nonconformist – You ask “When people voted in the European Referendum to take back power, they knew what they were voting for”. Did they really?………..I think they did. The problem is that for the vast majority of them didn’t get anything like what they voted for………..

    What they voted for was a ‘Victorian view of the England and the rest of the world’..An England where invisible hands caught fish, picked fruit/veg, worked in the service/health/care sectors, etc. and an outside world that ‘rolled over’ on trade deals, etc..
    The idea that it meant a free unicorn for everyone was sold to, and bought by, a large swathe of the population..

  • John Marriott 24th Sep '21 - 5:25pm

    @expats
    Oh no, I hope you haven’t started the EU hare running again! Can’t we just stick to putting our own house in order rather than blaming others?

    When I said that devolution was not about the EU, I meant it. However, if you asked me for a model to follow I would probably say the German federal system, which is, of course, still part of the EU.

    One of the reasons why I have stayed close to the Lib Dems is because I thought the party really believed in devolving power away from the centre. I’ve quite frankly got no time for the trans and LGBT stuff, nor the UBI. If that’s what lights your political fire, then good luck. Before I die, I want to see the U.K. moving towards what I would like to call a participatory democracy where the limits of personal freedom are clearly defined and where fairness rules. As I’m about to turn 78, there frankly isn’t much time for that to happen.

  • Barry Lofty 24th Sep '21 - 5:56pm

    John Marriott @ I hope that it is not seen as” hanging on your coat tails”, but I do agree with your last post and like you I would really like something positive to happen in our country with regards your fairness remark and while I am still around to witness it.

  • John Marriott 24th Sep '21 - 6:14pm

    @Barry Lofty
    Thanks for your kind words. Like our equally aged colleague north of the border, David Raw, who, like you and me, has seen it all before – and has probably got several t shirts to prove it (if he can still get into them) – I sometimes despair how arguments end us up in cul de sacs. I think fairness is the key word. Much of life is unfair and some people are extremely lucky, which they rarely accept. Some people do have only themselves to blame for their predicament. We shall never have a perfect world; but it could be a hell of a lot better than it currently is!

  • Peter Martin 25th Sep '21 - 4:39am

    @ John Marriott,

    “I thought the party really believed in devolving power away from the centre”

    But what do you mean by “power”? You might mean the ability of the devolved entities to be able to set their own taxes and do their own spending. But is this enough? How would Scotland have coped during the Pandemic if their Pandemic spending had to be covered by taxation revenue and “borrowing” in the normal sense of the term? They wouldn’t have coped well at all.

    I don’t want to turn this into another discussion on the UK’s membership of the EU but we can look at the structure of the eurozone and learn from its benefits and deficiencies. The obvious benefit is that everyone uses the same currency. The deficiency is that the separate individual entities are not in control of the currency they use. When the 2008 GFC struck and later we had the Pandemic the novel measures that were available to most other countries such as the UK and the USA, which were in control of their own currencies, were not available to them. The only body which has control of the euro is the ECB which has become the de facto central government of the eurozone.

    So “power” in both a fiscal and political sense has to include being in control of your own currency. This is a question that Scotland is grappling with now in connection with full independence. I don’t think anyone wants to see England broken up into separate regions with every region having their own separate pound. But this is what “devolving power away from the centre” has to mean.

  • John Marriott 25th Sep '21 - 9:43am

    @Peter Martin
    You are right. Money does talk, even if all mine ever seems to say is “Goodbye”.😀 I’ll leave it to our honorary Scotsman, David Raw, to answer your ‘North of the Border’ question, if he so chooses. That’s not what I’m banging on about.

    Let me be personal. My family and I have lived in Lincolnshire (near Lincoln, to be precise) since 1977. I started trying to get elected to local government around 1985 and, by 1987, was a Town and District Councillor, in which rôle I served 24 and 18 years respectively, adding to that ‘portfolio’ the position of County Councillor in 2001 before retiring in 2017.

    During that time I saw various administrations, usually Tory, go cap in hand down to Whitehall for extra funds. The answer was usually an expression of sympathy or the offer to ‘bid’ for extra funds, together with other cash strapped authorities, by jumping through a series of often demeaning hoops for, if successful, a modest reward.

    The problem has always, of course, been taxation. As most parties never dare to make a virtue of raising local taxes, mainly because the current method is regressive and is not based on the individual’s ability to pay, very little gets done quickly. Now I’m not saying that going cap in hand to a regional government in, say, Nottingham, Derby or Leicester would necessarily be more fruitful; but the politicians there might just have a better understanding of Lincolnshire’s problems than those at Westminster ever have.

    In addition to establishing, say, an East Midlands Regional Government, if Lincolnshire could get its act together and ‘go Unitary’ as well as sorting out the wholly inadequate Council Tax, with the Treasury repatriating the whole or a greater proportion of the business rate and, yes, as a relatively poor area, benefitting from what the Treasury used to call ‘Floors and Ceilings’, (aka as ‘Damping’) whereby extra federal/central funding was pushed its way, we might actually start to feel a bit less like the poor relation.

  • @ John Marriott Thanks a lot, John. I always relish the challenge of drilling into impervious unforgiving rock.

    My answer to Mr Martin – as an unrepentant expat Yorkie – is that if Scotland was allowed to have the appropriate powers it could cope in the same way that New Zealand has done, or as his favourite Scandinavian country, Iceland has done – (though the latter messed up UK local government with its banking failures fifteen years ago).

    Given the Scottish (and Yorkshire) diaspora managed to run most of the old British Empire reasonably efficiently, and to invent all manner and kind of scientific and medical advances despite the best efforts of numerous old Etonians to mess things up, my answer should come as no surprise.

    En passant, your remark a few days ago about the need for a bit more humility in certain quarters was well chosen.

  • John Marriott 25th Sep '21 - 11:52am

    @Peter Martin
    First, my thanks to David Raw for his pithy rising to the challenge.

    What’s this about each region having its own currency, or are you actually pulling both of my legs? On second thoughts, are you just stirring it? Where is Joe Bourke with his quotes and links when you actually need him? On second thoughts……….

  • David Raw 25th Sep ’21 – 11:28am:
    …or as his favourite Scandinavian country, Iceland has done…

    At the risk of being overly pedantic, Iceland is a Nordic country, but not Scandinavian.

    ‘The Difference Between Scandinavian and Nordic’:
    https://www.tripsavvy.com/difference-between-scandinavian-and-nordic-1626695

    If you ever call someone from Finland or Iceland Scandinavian, it’s likely that you will be corrected and given a brief history lesson.

  • Peter Martin 26th Sep '21 - 12:36pm

    @ John @ David,

    I’m not sure what “rising to the challenge” means here. New Zealand is genuinely independent in the same way that Scotland could be if it wanted to. But, on a point of information, the Kiwis do use the dollar. It isn’t the US$ or any other dollar but one of their own creation. Also they have their own Parliament and set their own laws and don’t share with anyone else.

    @ Jeff,

    Thanks for the info on Scandinavia. I did think it only included Norway, Sweden and Denmark but I wasn’t sure why.

  • @ John Marriott “and has probably got several t shirts to prove it (if he can still get into them)”.

    Now then, young John, mind your manners. Thirteen stone in my stockinged feet and I bet I could still give you a 10 yard start in the Powderhall Sprint.

  • Peter Martin 26th Sep ’21 – 12:36pm:
    New Zealand is genuinely independent in the same way that Scotland could be if it wanted to.

    They would need to make some dramatic changes. Prior to Covid, New Zealand was running a budget surplus. Even now it has an exceptionally low national debt at around 30% of GDP. New Zealanders are also moderately taxed with VAT at 13%, top rate Income Tax at 39% (up from 33% pre-Covid) and no Capital Gains Tax other than on second properties held for less than 10 years.

  • Peter Martin 26th Sep '21 - 10:38pm

    @ John Marriott,

    It depends on what you want to achieve in the regions. It’s the same for Scotland too.

    As this article explains Scotland can never be truly independent unless it has its own currency.

    https://www.thenational.scot/news/17592696.without-currency-scotland-not-really-independent-country/

    @ Jeff.

    It’s quite irrelevant whether or not NZ has a budget surplus. In any case, if the govt is in surplus someone else is in deficit and that is probably not a sustainable fiscal position.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Oct '21 - 4:01pm

    Federal regional states within an english legal system seems sensible. It will help to retain the Union and give more political clout to the regions of England. The question for me is whether it would be sufficiently attractive to S,W&NI to keep them within the Union. We need to sell it in these countries as well as England.

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