Coffee House

Cabinet agrees ‘difficult decisions’ due for 2015/16 spending review

22 January 2013

Ministers aren’t just getting ready for March’s Budget: they’re also trying to work out a ‘budget setting process’ for 2015/16. The content of that slimmed-down departmental spending review formed the discussion at today’s Cabinet meeting, with George Osborne and Danny Alexander leading.

It’s not clear when this spending review will be announced, other than that it will take place in the first half of 2013. But the discussion centred around that old chestnut, the ‘difficult decisions’. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said:

‘They set out that there was going to be a budget setting process for 15/16 in the first half of this year that the treasury will set out more on that process in due course. One of the things they were underlining ahead of that was the importance of departments continuing to and stepping up their engagement with the Treasury and the Efficiency and Reform Group.’

The efficiency and reform group could recommend further savings to be made in terms of a department’s operations, such as sharing services with another ministry. This already started under the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review.


According to the spokesman, there was no disagreement around the table from ministers arguing that they couldn’t cut any more from their departments. He said:

‘There was agreement around the Cabinet table that though the decisions that we are going to have to take are difficult, they will have to be made.’

His focus in briefing the discussion was on ‘back office services and functions’, but the spokesman refused to rule out further frontline cuts. He continued to repeat that there will ‘have to be difficult decisions’, and also referred to further reform of public services ‘so you can achieve… more with less’.

Though ministers might be resigned to the fact that jostling for protection in this review might not work, there could be another sort of jostling: to be the exemplary department. Remember that in the 2012 Autumn Statement, Michael Gove was rewarded for his cutting prowess at the Education department with extra capital funding. Others might hope that if they are able to show similar results, they could reap similar rewards.

The other thing to look out for is that in spite of this universal nodding of heads about difficult decisions, if there are more cuts to frontline services in the offing, it will present the two Coalition parties with an opportunity for some public point-scoring about who-prevented-which-cuts for the financial year when the next general election will take place.

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  • RBcritique

    EU aims to prostrate UK and the City. Then mission achieved and in/in referendum in 2015 becomes irrelevant. The race is on.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Isabel, please could you explain how spending cuts after the next election (when Cameron and his cronies probably won’t be around) are in any way ‘difficult’?

    First of all Genius Osborne thought he could get away without any cuts, with all his tax increases somehow causing growth that would support Labour’s client state and extravagant spending like HS2, windmills and foreign aid. Now he’s realised there will be no growth at these levels of tax so he pushed all the difficult decisions into the next Parliament. Brilliant.

    Next they’ll be lecturing local government on cuts having failed to implement any themselves. Wait… they already are. And they wonder why their party is getting rebellious.

  • sceptic3

    What is needed is a UKIP government. Cuts would then be focused on the political nonsense. Green subsidies, HS2, EU, foreign aid to name but a few. There would be no cuts in care for the elderly who paid the taxes that Labour poured down the drain.

    • HooksLaw

      HS2 only starts in 2019 and phase 1 completes in 2026 – so no cuts available there .

      Its infrastructure. Is UKIP going to deny the nation infrastructure? Is that the way to build an economy. If you are going to build different infrastructure than it is not a cut at all.

      Clearly you are an isolationist Little Englander who is happy to let the world go hang, yet you want a giant army to presumably do nothing but sit in its barracks. You are simple minded if you think that notion is a route to prosperity and security.

      • sceptic3

        They are spending money on HS2 now by way of surveys, publicity, promotion etc. Billions will be spent on compulsory purchase before a sod is turned. The rolling stock is being designed as we speak.

        Our army will have plenty to do with decades of unrest in North Africa. Infrastructure?

        We already have the most advanced infrastructure in the world; bar none. Air travel is cheaper than rail, less damaging and quieter. Why is it you Euro types always resort to insults; Little Englander; Can’t you at least be original. Prosperity comes from global trading, manufacturing, innovation, importing as little as you can, proper education. In fact all the things we used to do before the EU. It helps of course if a nation has a sense of purpose. Politicians have destroyed ours. UKIP will rebuild Britain; and give the nation a reason to get up in the morning.

  • williamblakesghost

    The problem is that much of what could be cut in terms of bureaucracy is probably controlled by EU Directives and whilst we remain part of the Lisbon Treaty there is not a damn thing we can do about it. Of course dipshit Dave has already decided to kick the EU issue into the long grass and in doing so also ties his Ministers hands behind their back

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      Precisely. A combination of the EU and the ECHR Human Rights/Equality agenda makes it extremely difficult to cut bureaucracy in most governmental departments and Quangos.

    • AnotherDaveB

      MPs and Ministers don’t want to reduce government spending. All of the parliamentary parties are in favour of big government, and high taxes.

    • HooksLaw

      Cobblers. The EU is not an issue in restricting cuts. And even out of the EU we would be complying with EU regulations, just like Norway. Another fatuous attempt to bend the truth to suit your prejudice.

  • UKIP for change

    90% of the already announced cuts have yet to happen,and yet more will to be announced in the coming months.

    The OBR says that 715k Public Sector jobs will be lost by the already announced cuts,so are we talking a million jobs or more lost in the Public Sector?

    That would take us way back past New Labour’s time in office,they added 800k jobs in the Public Sector.Unless John Major added 200k while in office,we will back to a Public Sector the size it was under Mrs T.Just don’t mention the new Scotland that has been imported in the last 10 years(5 million) If you think the Public Sector was bad in the 80’s and underfunded in relation to the population LOL! you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    • Tom Tom

      Have you ever done Budgeting ? Have you even seen how many Planned Positions and Vacant Positions exist in Budgets to take care of “Cuts” ? Do you know how many “leased personnel” will replace them on “temporary” contracts; or “on secondment” from some Management Consultancy or Accounting Firm ? This is BUREAUCRACY and it will preserve itself even at the end of the world. These Neophytes have not a prayer

      • UKIP for change

        Easy cuts will always be found,like the troop cuts announced today.

        Cuts that we should make we won’t because of jobs for the boys.We are a undemocratic police state.If we were a republic,we would resemble a yellow fruit.

      • HooksLaw

        Whatever takes place will happen under a reduced budget so your speculation does not wash. In any event it makes sense to have people on short contracts for the work when you need it rather than carry dead weight.

        • Tom Tom

          You clearly have ZERO experience of setting Budgets

    • Dimoto

      So UKIP , like Labour, is in favour of a massive public sector ?

  • Gary Gimson

    OK, why wait? Get cutting now. If a saving can be made in 2013, it can probably be made again in 2014, etc.

    • telemachus

      The major difficult decision is to move to plan B
      Plan B is not dead
      We are about to be given notice of the coming triple dip recession
      It is time to invest
      It is time to build for growth

      • Colonel Mustard

        Let us stay clear of telemachus. We all look forward to a bright future at the Coffee House without this revanchist troll. It is time for us to invest. It is time to build for growth. The troll telemachus must be served his redundancy notice forthwith. We need a reasonable Coffee House for reasonable folk without the Stalinist.

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