Danny Alexander has made clear that the next Spending Review will cover only two years, not three. It won’t be the first time political expediency has trumped economic planning
So, it appears fairly certain now that the coalition government is going to announce – sometime next year – Spending Review 2013.
But, and this is critical, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander seems to have said this will only be a 2 year Spending Review covering the years 2014-15 and 15-16.
Multi-year Spending Reviews were an innovation introduced by Gordon Brown at the start of the previous Labour government. But the ‘cycles’ of Spending Reviews have been odd, to say the least.
Here’s a list of how they’ve worked out in practice – the figures in brackets are the number of years the Reviews allegedly covered and the second number is what they actually covered (because sometimes they were ‘superseded’ by the next SR).
What this little table shows is that governments of different complexions have been more than happy to ‘juggle’ the timing of public spending plans – both their announcements and their duration – to suit political or other imperatives.
(This is something I find hard to explain to overseas audiences, who can’t believe we have such a ‘flexible’, and not a law-based, system).
Anyway, SR2013 will be interesting to put it mildly. The challenges for the coalition will be huge, given how badly their economic and financial plans have worked out in practice.
And politically, SR2013 will – whether they like it or not – be seen as integral to the platforms the two parties will stand on as the general election looms.
The original version of this blog appeared on Colin Talbot’s website Whitehall Watch. These and other public policy issues will be debated at Manchester University’s Policy@Manchester week from 29 October to 2 November. For more details go to http://www.manchester.ac.uk/policy/week/