The Barnett Formula - Select Committee on the Barnett Formula Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320 - 330)


Professor David Bell, Professor David King and Professor Kim Swales

  Q320  Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: But that is to do with policy, or perhaps I am missing something.

  Professor King: You asked a question about data and there are some data which are always going to be elliptical for that sort of reason.

  Q321  Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Professor Bell, you mention that social care because the systems are different. The systems are only different, as I understand it, that in Scotland there is free care available for elderly people because it is treated as being part of the Health Service not part of local government where it is means tested, but you can look at England and you can look at how many elderly people you have got and their needs, and you can look at Scotland. You can form a view on the relative resource requirement. If they decide in Scotland to make it free care and not have people making a contribution, that is down to them, that is a policy issue. The need arises from how many elderly people have you got who are not able to look after themselves in their own homes, surely? The data must be available for that?

  Professor King: Who decides they are not able to look after themselves. That is the point.

  Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: The answer is that there is an assessment of need made at an individual level. The fact that in Scotland when it is assessed that you do actually need care, either at home or in residential care, you do not get a bill for it does not alter, to my mind, the gathering of the data as to what the degree of need is. Am I missing something?

  Q322  Lord Sewel: It may affect the classification.

  Professor Bell: I could give you data on something called the attendance allowance across the whole of the United Kingdom, and if you looked at it you would see that the number of people per thousand receiving it is much higher in Wales than it is in other parts of the UK. Is that because there is a higher level of need or is it because the doctors, who are the gate keepers of this benefit, operate slightly differently in Wales than they do in other parts of the UK? We have to be assured, it seems to me, that there was a uniformity of assessment wherever we were trying to get some matrix on need, so there would have to be some assurance of that, it seems to me.

  Q323  Chairman: I think that is absolutely true but I think the argument now about the quality of data is not going to help us in deciding what we ought to do about the Barnett formula. What is interesting to me is the degree of consensus there seems to be on both sides of this particular table.

  Professor King: If I could just comment on that. If you took primary education, the most important factor is the number of primary school children you have got. There is no room for asking "is this a primary school child or not?". At the margin you could say that some primary school children need more money because they have got learning difficulties, and then it becomes has this child really got learning difficulties or not, and are they severe learning difficulties or not, but probably the percentage of the budget which is going to be dependent on these judgment aspects of data is going to be relatively small.

  Q324  Lord Sewel: The only importance is whether that percentage is different in Scotland than in England.

  Professor King: It depends who is assessing this. If the Scots take a much more robust view about learning difficulties, and the Welsh say anyone who has not got an IQ of 150 has got learning difficulties, then you have a problem,

  Q325  Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Given the sample size, it is highly likely that the proportion on some objective criteria of children with special needs in England will not be very different from Scotland or Wales. If there is a huge difference, then you might look behind that to find out what is going on to make that difference. Surely that is one of the tasks that that body would do?

  Professor Bell: That is why you have 40 people rather than two.

  Professor King: I accept that but if I just take one example from my local government study, one of the factors which is allowed for in assessing local authority needs on the spend on personal social services for older people is the number of people on low incomes and, surprising though this may seem, the allowance which would be given to Scotland is more than 50 per cent higher than what has been given to England, and one might well think between the countries there is not a lot of difference, but every now and then you get some indicators where there is a big difference. Another one is on the education one when English local authorities were given an allowance for children who come from what they politically correctly call low-achieving ethnic groups, and the proportion of children in England from those groups is something like nine per cent and in Scotland it is 1 per cent, so every now and then you hit some indicator which is very significantly different, even between countries.

  Q326  Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: But that is because they are different.

  Professor King: That is because they are different, yes.

  Q327  Lord Rowe-Beddoe: And you have confidence in them?

  Professor King: In these numbers?

  Q328  Lord Rowe-Beddoe: Yes.

  Professor King: They are perfect! There are two sorts of comments. If I take people on low incomes, I have no doubt that is done on some fairly robust assessment of incomes, but that is meant to be a proxy for how much these people really need and whether they are measuring it in the right way for that. One would be less confident about that.

  Q329  Chairman: Professor Bell, fairly early on in this discussion you gave some figures on convergence which I might say raised one or two eyebrows on this side. Could you perhaps put it on paper?

  Professor Bell: Sure, I have got a picture here.

  Q330  Lord Rowe-Beddoe: Could I just ask on data, which I have an interest in, there is a plethora of statistics created by government statistical services, whether they are in Scotland, or the ONS in England and Wales and so on. In all of that surely there must be something we can actually use as a sensible approach to needs requirements? After all, some of these are data are produced weekly, some monthly, some annually. We are about to spend a great deal of money on a Census. I just wonder if we have got the information we need if we only knew where to mine it?

  Professor Bell: If you want to find out about the labour market there is a plethora of monthly statistics on each region of the United Kingdom that are published by the ONS, so all the stuff about unemployment and low incomes is included there. There are a few surveys which go into other areas, like health and care and so on, that tend to be annual, for which the sample sizes are big enough in the countries to be able to come to general conclusions, so I could say that in terms of recorded disability Scotland and England are pretty much the same but Wales is higher, so there is a set of statistics that I would be happy to list of the kinds of things that you might consider as a starting point, but there are some areas where in terms of what goes on, rather than the objective need, there are difficulties.

  Professor King: Of course a lot of the indicators of need are demographic factors. There might be a really good Census every 10 years but in between them one is relying very much on estimates which may turn out to be wrong.

  Professor Bell: Of course there is a big issue in terms of need for England in particular which is migration, and the statistics here are fairly hopeless.

  Chairman: Thank you all very much indeed for coming this morning. It has been a very good morning indeed. I have learned a great deal and I am delighted to see the degree of agreement there is. Thank you very much indeed.

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