Buried in the small print of last week’s Budget is what looks like an attack on yet another core constitutional principle: that public money should not be misappropriated to private ends, here the ends of the Conservative Party.
What Rishi Sunak said was that he was going to spend the vast sum of £4.8bn on “redrawing the economic map” through a “Levelling Up Fund.” But the evidence suggests much of that money is instead going to redrawing the political map: prosperous areas with Conservative MPs are being prioritised over struggling areas with Labour MPs.
Analysis carried out by the Financial Times revealed that Conservative areas were consistently pushed up the queue for money and Labour voting areas pushed down the list. Diane Coyle, the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at Cambridge University described the bias in favour of Tory seats as “pretty blatant really.”
Although the Treasury promised it would show its workings they have yet to be published. Professor Coyle was, once again, pretty scathing: “I am sure there are civil servants trying to retrofit the methodology to justify the rankings as we speak.”
This is pork-barrel politics on a grand scale. £4.8bn is more than enough to give our 670,000 nurses a pay rise of 25% rather than the meagre below inflation 1% offered to them.
The people at the Good Law Project are deeply unhappy at this and have instructed Bindmans LLP, backed by a team of public law Counsel and a leading academic, to write to the Treasury, demanding it make good on its promise to show its workings. If those workings reveal, as independent analysis suggests, a misuse of public money to benefit the Conservative Party we will issue proceedings without delay.