Spending review postponed again
Doubt cast over plans to use CSR to address legacy tech
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has today confirmed that plans for a full review of government spending have been postponed to free up departments to focus on the coronavirus response.
Instead of the planned Comprehensive Spending Review to set budgets across government from 2021-22 to 2023-24 for revenue spending and 2024-25 for capital spending has been paused, there will be a one-year settlement instead.
The last full review took place in 2015, and this marks the second year in a row there has been a 12-month postponement after the four-year cycle was originally extended because of Brexit.
The additional casts doubt over plans to use the review as a means of addressing legacy technology across government. The Government Technology Innovation Strategy published last year set out plans for the Government Digital Service to conduct an audit of legacy technology across government. Having completed this exercise earlier in 2020, the agency had been working with HM Treasury towards the goal of using the CSR process to support departments in addressing their technology upgrade needs, and ensure that measures to combat legacy were built into programme and project plans.
The Treasury said the decision to conduct another short-term spending roud prioritised the response to Covid-19, and government's focus on supporting jobs. The announcement will be made in late November.
However, multi-year NHS and schools settlements, which have already been agreed, will stay in place, as will priority infrastructure projects such as the High Speed 2 rail project and the government’s hospital building plan.
Announcing the decision, Sunak said: “In the current environment it's essential that we provide certainty. So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling Covid and delivering our plan for jobs."
The one-year review will also focus on providing “enhanced support” for public services to continue to fight against coronavirus, as well as investing in infrastructure priorities, the Treasury said.
Sunak added: “Long term investment in our country’s future is the right thing to do, especially in areas which are the cornerstone of our society like the NHS, schools and infrastructure. We’ll make sure these areas crucial to our economic recovery have their budgets set for further years so they can plan and help us build back better.”
The announcement also reiterated that the government will “exercise restraint in future public sector pay awards, ensuring that across this year and the spending review period, public sector pay levels retain parity with the private sector”.
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