Those close to the centre of power are briefing that they want to target departments which are not “public-facing” such as DCMS (culture) and DCLG (communities) in October’s spending round.
When you get into the minutiae of how budgets are spent, however, you end up with some tricky decisions very fast. Take DCLG: most of its funding ends up with local authorities, which provide many services that are very much public-facing; swimming pools, schools, bin collections etc.
I wrote a devil’s advocate Cut of the Day last week on the National Affordable Housing Programme – funded by the DCLG – which spends billions on building new social housing. The coalition will also hope to make massive savings from the £561m regional development agencies budget.
Otherwise, if you go through the department’s resource spending from last year the scale of the task ahead becomes more clear. Some spending is evidently useful (eg the fire service). And many of the programmes which sound the most superfluous turn out to be less ridiculous than they appear.
Supporting People: This may sound vague beyond belief but it provides support for the vulnerable in their homes – eg 800,000 pensioners. The point of the programme is that without it many of the recipients could end up in hospital or old people’s homes; at higher expense. The cost has dropped from £1.6bn to £15m as it has been absorbed by the larger “area-based grant”.
New Dimension. Despite it’s ridiculous name, this £51m programme also has a good case. It provides equipment for the fire and rescue services to decontaminate sites after CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) incidents. Who will take the blame for this one?
New Deal for Communities: This sounds ripe for the axe; at first glance. Turns out that it’s the way in which the government tries to fund regeneration schemes in inner cities. It has already been chopped from £153m in 2006/7 to £43m last year.