Published by Andrew Haldenby on 20 May 2015
- Our Work
- The Reformer Blog
9 November 2015
Today is the first day in which the Spending Review has commanded the headlines for several months. The Chancellor has praised those departments that have agreed their cuts, amid speculation that he is putting pressure on those that have yet to agree. Four departments have agreed cuts of around 30 per cent over the Parliament.
So much of the Spending Review is inevitably about the budget numbers. A lot of the reporting over the next fortnight will inevitably concern the exact settlements for each spending department.
Even more important, however, are the ideas that underpin the Review. The budget numbers are essential for the Treasury but the ideas on public services will determine whether those services go on to improve or not, and if so, how fast.
Government voices have put forward a number of ideas so far, notably:
These are all great themes but they might not work perfectly without some guidance. A key question is how devolution fits in. At first sight, there might be a tension between devolution and a centralisation of competence, for example. Under the Coalition, various inconsistencies and downright contradictions in the Government’s objectives held back the whole effort.
Regardless of Ministers’ wishes, the rest of the public sector will look to them to express clearly the ideas that will win support and so are worth pursuing. The simpler and clearer the story, the better. The Chancellor today highlighted the idea of selling inner-city prisons and building new, fit for purpose facilities as a result. That is fantastic but it doesn’t bear on the question of devolution, for example.
Ministers may naturally fear that the public sector is generally antagonistic towards any further cuts, and so to the Spending Review. Work by Reform, Deloitte and also Ipsos Mori indicates in fact that many public sector leaders are realistic about the financial picture and are passionately committed to improving services from now on. They want a clear lead from Government to help them. Over to you, Mr Osborne.
Andrew Haldenby, Director, Reform