This was a remarkably opaque spending review given all the fuss the coalition makes about transparency. There were no figures for public sector net-investment, much to Chris Giles’ annoyance.
There were also no calculation of combined cuts to department budgets, covering resource and capital spending. This was not beyond the wit of the Treasury — indeed the table was at one stage in the review. Osborne’s team have kindly passed it on so we can finally publish what they left out. It gives a much better idea of how cabinet ministers fared.
A few striking stats.
– Thrifty Eric Pickles has lost two-thirds of his communities empire.
– Defence ended up with a better overall settlement than education (although it of course has a big black hole to fill).
– Transport emerged much less scathed than expected, losing 15 per cent.
– Energy somehow managed to emerge with a 17 per cent increase, mainly in order to deal with nuclear waste.
Last osbservation: Osborne has put aside £3.6bn in the reserve in 2015 to fund operations in Afghanistan, even though Cameron plans to withdrawn by then. What is it for? Prudence? A pre-election war chest? Maybe it just costs a lot to fly the troops home and pack up military kit.