Peter Hoskin

Getting to grips with spending

Getting to grips with spending
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This news in today's FT makes you wonder whether we might see some kind of spending review in the next few months, after all:

"A massive data collection exercise across many hundreds of public bodies has been ordered by the Treasury to determine expenditure on IT, human resources, finance and procurement, in a bid to wring better value for taxpayers out of the billions of pounds spent.

...

All government departments, agencies and hundreds of other public bodies that employ more than 250 people are being asked to provide the data by the end of next month for publication ahead of the autumn pre-Budget report.

In time, the data are to be collected each year and will cover the entire public sector.

The move follows the recommendations of Martin Read, former chief executive of Logica, in a study published this year alongside the Budget. It showed that in spite of years of efficiency drives, the Treasury has only a broad estimate of the amount spent by the public sector on back-office functions.

IT spending across Whitehall, the National Health Service, the police, schools and local government could be £12.5bn-£18.5bn a year, Mr Read calculated. Expenditure on other back-office functions is £16bn-£20bn a year."

Broadly speaking, this kind of move should be welcomed.  Greater transparency in public spending makes it easier to identify and cut waste; a major premise behind the Tories' plan to publish, online, details of how taxpayers' money is spent.  But it does make you wonder why the government didn't have their hands on this kind of information before now.