Coalition's cuts 'to trouble devolved administrations'

Scottish secretary Danny Alexander, David Cameron, Alex Salmond and Scottish finance secretary John Swinney
Scottish secretary Danny Alexander, David Cameron, Alex Salmond and Scottish finance secretary John Swinney

By Alex Stevenson

Reconciling London's coalition government with Cardiff and Edinburgh could be harder than David Cameron thinks, a report has suggested.

The prime minister quickly visited Scottish first minister Alex Salmond and Welsh first minister Ieuan Wyn Jones after taking office in a bid to improve relations between the devolved administrations and the national government.

Both appeared impressed by his grasp of the issues but a report today from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank has warned the real tests for the relationship are still to come.


Imposing stringent spending cuts in Wales and Northern Ireland will be much harder given that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition implementing them is in opposition in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish parliament.

"The new prime minister has gone out of his way in his early days in office to give a reassuring message to the people of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through his 'respect' agenda," IPPR associate director Guy Lodge said.

"But there's no getting away from the fact that the Conservative mandate in Scotland in particular is extremely weak. At the same time, grant funding to the devolved nations will have to be cut as part of the deficit reduction programme."

On Monday the Treasury announced the devolved administrations would be given the option of deferring this year's spending cuts until next year.

Mr Lodge warned this risked a "backlash" from England, however, especially from poorer areas.

Ensuring smooth relations requires an overhaul of the decision-making arrangements surrounding the block grant, more systematic and regular use of intergovernmental ministerial meetings and a longer-term reform of the Barnett formula, the report recommends.

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