Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report



DEPARTMENTAL SPENDING LIMITS

52. The Government has set out clearly the benefits that setting three year spending limits brings — for example to provide a solid base for planning and to provide greater flexibility between years.[71] We would not seek to challenge these advantages but have some concerns about the reverse side of the coin — the lack of flexibility to take on new work, for example arising from policy and strategy reviews which are still underway, including the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Renewable Energy policy.

53. A reserve has been set aside within the expenditure planning totals — of some £5.5 billion over the three years 1999 - 2002.[72] But the Treasury told us categorically that departments will have to fund new programmes from within their allocations.[73] The Chief Secretary told us that there would be no extra money allocated to individual departments during the three years.[74] Departments would have to accommodate new pressures through reordering their priorities within their financial envelope.[75] He did not give us any indication that resources had been set aside for forthcoming developments such as the Sustainable Development Strategy.

54. We are very concerned about the constraint the fixed three year spending limits place on key policies which are due to be finalised within the next year or so. We ask the Government again to tell us what provision it has made to enable forthcoming policies to be taken forward, in particular the Sustainable Development Strategy and the Renewable Energy Policy.

55. We understand that the Government's intention is to roll forward the three year spending limits in 2000 to tie in with the timetable for the introduction of Resource Accounting and Budgeting, and that this results in the third year of the current Comprehensive Spending Review, 2001 - 02, also being the first year of the second Comprehensive Spending Review.[76] We therefore ask particularly whether there will be scope to address the need for any new spending on the Sustainable Development Strategy and Renewable Energy Policy for the year 2001 - 02.


71   Stability and Investment for the long-term. Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report 1998 Cm 3978, p26 Back

72   Modern Public Services for Britain, Op. Cit. p109 Back

73   Ev p4 Back

74   Q63 Back

75   Q78 Back

76   Economic and Fiscal Strategy Report, Op.Cit.p26 Back


 
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Prepared 16 February 1999