More blurring of Whitehall budgets

25 Nov 99
The Treasury is to more than double the number of cross-government spending programmes but has played down claims that this is an assault on the financial independence of individual Whitehall departments.

26 November 1999

Seven new areas are to be subjected to reviews carried out by groups of ministers and officials from a range of departments.

The topics include government intervention in deprived areas, support for young people at risk, crime reduction, science and research, nuclear safety in the former Soviet Union, conflict prevention in sub-Saharan Africa and 'welfare to work'.

Andrew Smith, chief secretary to the Treasury, commented: 'The cross-departmental work in the original Comprehensive Spending Review has proved to be a success. We want to build on this in next year's review to ensure a more coherent approach in the delivery of services.'

Among the six areas already given joined-up treatment are local government finance, drug abuse and housing. The idea is to focus on an issue, such as drug abuse, rather than on the individual department responsible for tackling it. In some cases, departmental budgets may be pooled. However, the Treasury was at pains to stress that in the case of local government, ultimate responsibility will still reside with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Even so, the Treasury is working on the creation of a self-standing Public Service Agreement binding local authorities to performance targets. Consultations on this are under way with the Local Government Association.

Brian Briscoe, LGA chief executive, was among 16 experts at a public service delivery summit in Downing Street on November 24 attended by the prime minister.

From the private sector were Mike Harris of on-line bank Egg and Michael Wemms from Tesco.

The government committed itself to:

  • set new targets in next year's spending review raising performance in public services to the level of the best

  • encourage comparisons, between the public and private sectors and internationally

  • use league tables to bring home the potential for improvement, applying best practice on measurement

  • promote Beacon schemes

  • involve front-line staff more closely to establish what works best.


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