The UK’s environment, transport and local government departments have all provisionally agreed to cut their spending by around 30% over the next four years, the Chancellor announced today (November 9).
Defra, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – along with the Treasury itself – have all reached agreement on cuts sought by the Treasury in order to bring public finances back into surplus by 2019/20.
Speaking at Imperial College London today of the government’s spending review on November 25, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the day-to-day spending of these four departments “will be cut by 30% average in total over the next four years”.
He said that the savings would be achieved by “a combination of further efficiencies in departments, closing low value programmes, and focusing on our priorities as a country”.
However, Mr Osborne emphasised that the provisional settlements applied to the day-to-day resource spending of the central departments and “are not the capital budgets of these departments”.
The full details of the capital settlement, as well as the result of the local government settlement, will be announced in the spending review on November 25 2015.
According to Mr Osborne, the spending cuts are part of the government’s plan to reduce the deficit and bring the UK back into surplus by 2019/20, and his speech repeatedly iterated the need to ensure the UK’s “economic security and national security”.
But Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said cuts and austerity would not close the deficit and would “damage public services and growth”, calling for “a focus on science, technology and green jobs to equip Britain for the future”.
Negotiations continue with other departments over cuts ahead before full details of the capital settlement, as well as the result of the local government settlement, are announced in the spending review on November 25 2015.
However, a number of departments, such as the Department of Health, have been protected from cuts.
A spokesman for Defra declined to comment or provide further details on the spending cuts ahead of the November 25 spending review.
The announcement comes as the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) finished consulting on its draft air quality plan for the UK on Friday (November 6), and also comes amid concern over car diesel emissions testing in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal.
Environmental lawyer NGO ClientEarth has threatened further court action over Defra’s air quality plan, which it has criticised for “leaving it up to overstretched and underfunded local authorities to implement” (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Today’s announcement also follows recent reports in the Financial Times that the government has set up a new ministerial committee, chaired by Oliver Letwin MP, to look at ‘clean growth’, with a remit including vehicle emissions, climate change and green energy.
Those reportedly taking part in the committee include Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, Business Secretary Sajid Javid.