Spending review

As my last post suggested, we’re entering times of fear and loathing in Whitehall.

There is a lot of animosity growing over the way mid-level officials are handing this spending round. Read more

Whitehall finally puts its worst fears to paper today. After months of agonising preparation, officials will finally dispatch the budget bids to the Treasury. The letters themselves include a plea for leniency that runs for about four to five pages. But the important part is a blood-curdling chart that shows how the department would find cuts of up to 40 per cent cut. “The sacred cows lining up for slaughter,” in the words of one official.

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Option: End the Train to Gain programme, created in 2006 to “support employers improve the skills of their employees”. Read more

On the basis of Osborne’s spending plans, it looks like the coalition is either:

Before you accuse me of exaggerating, take a look at the rough maths. (This is courtesy of the ever-sharp Ian Mulheirn at the Social Market Foundation.Read more

Welcome to a new, occasional series running up to the Autumn spending review. We’re planning for the “Cut Of The Day” to be as arbitrary, brutish and irregular as the whims of the Treasury axemen. So you may see a few examples on a single day, or none at all.

The basic premise is to lay out the case for and against various measures. We’ll try to pull together some greatest hits before the Spending review. So please do let us know if you think the options are too damaging, cruel or indeed unnecessarily merciful. Read more

Our economics team ran some tests to show the regional impact of cuts and illustrate the challenge of eliminating the deficit without punishing the poor.

If you cut social security payments by 10 per cent, for instance, they found the poorest areas were hit hardest. Household disposable income fell by 3.6 per cent in Merseyside and only 2.1 per cent in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Read more

Look beyond the make-up on the public sector reform commission. John Hutton’s decision to chair it is a serious political coup for George Osborne. But the real shake-down is hidden in the small print.

Osborne said Hutton’s interim report in September will look at the “the early steps we can take to save costs”. The full remit goes a bit furtherRead more

Some political points have a short shelf life and David Cameron’s lament on debt interest is one of them. The trouble is that if he keeps on complaining about the terrible £70bn burden facing the country, people may actually think he can do something about it.

Take this typical comment at prime minister’s questions, which is being trotted out as standard Coalition creed: Read more

Cameron has made some striking pledges on how he will cut the deficit. The trouble is that most of them are at odds with his promise to protect the vulnerable.

As this excellent Social Market Foundation report contends, it is hard to see how any of his pledges on ring-fencing middle class benefits, limiting tax rises and increasing health spending will survive, at least if Cameron really isn’t going to balance the books on the backs of the poor. Read more

This is one for the geeks but a telling sign of how power gnarls bold promises on transparency.

For several years, Chris Giles, the FT economics editor, has tirelessly pushed the Treasury to come clean over their fiscal forecasts so the country is told the severity of cuts expected to total departmental spending. Read more

An interesting chart from the Institute of Government. Note the Lib Dem cabinet positions control less than 10 per cent of departmental spending (excluding the all powerful David Laws, of course).

Not sure whether this is a blessing. Axing 25 per cent of spending from transport or the police is never a career enhancing move in politics. But Vince Cable and Danny Alexander face some particularly tough choices on Scotland and student fees, which have the potential to backfire horribly on the Lib Dems. Read more