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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Fair Shares? Barnett and the politics of public expenditure

The Barnett formula - the Treasury mechanism used to fund the devolved administrations (DAs) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - is now the subject of widespread political debate across the four nations of the UK. To help inform these debates this paper evaluates the way the Barnett formula works.

The Barnett formula - the Treasury mechanism used to fund the devolved administrations (DAs) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - is now the subject of widespread political debate across the four nations of the UK.

In particular, there are growing concerns that the current disparities in funding across the UK are not fair and that this is creating a tension between the four nations, especially between England and Scotland, which could serve to undermine the Union unless addressed.

To help inform these debates this paper evaluates the way the Barnett formula works and asks:

  • Does Barnett deliver an equitable and fair distribution of spending?
  • Does Barnett provide for efficient and accountable spending?
  • Do the public think the distribution of public spending across the UK is fair? Is Barnett procedurally fair?