James Forsyth

Show me the money

Show me the money
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The story in The Times today about the row over which departments are stumping up the cash for the recently announced £1.57bn social housing programme suggests that Whitehall is in chaos at the moment. One official tells the paper, “I have never known an announcement like this where money is so off the wall.”

These two quotes give you a sense of the total confusion over the funding of this initiative, which is supposed to be key to the government’s relaunch:

“But the Home Office categorically denied that it would be providing £90 million — the new Treasury figure — having been told that it would have to find less than £50 million. “As far as we are concerned we are finding less than half that amount,” a Home Office source said.

A Department of Health source admitted that there was “total confusion” in Whitehall after the Treasury claimed that the department was footing about £240 million of the housing bill — a figure that was not recognised at the ministry.”

At the end of a government, things do tend to get a little chaotic. But it seems remarkable that there is such confusion over how one of the key planks of the government’s policy platform is going to be paid for. But then again judging by Sue Cameron’s Notebook there is a lot of confusion about at the moment:

“when HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) called Lord Mandelson’s office there apparently followed a panto-style exchange along the following lines: “You’re not with us,” from Lord M’s people. “Oh, yes we are,” from HEFCE. “Oh no you’re not, you’re with Ed Balls’ Children’s Department, aren’t you?” HEFCE rightly insisted: “Oh no we’re not – we’re with you.”

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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