Reports and Publications

Most of the Scrutiny Unit's work involves producing analysis and briefing for committees and is not separately published.

The Unit does however from time to time produce briefing notes on specialist subject areas which, although intended primarily for the benefit of Committees and MPs, may also be of wider interest.

Data visualisations: public spending

The Scrutiny Unit has produced a number of visual representations of the Government’s spending plans, highlighting key numbers and issues of interest.  These documents are derived from publicly available information and were prepared originally for the benefit of Departmental Select Committees.

What is Financial Scrutiny?

This guide shows how Members of Select Committees can engage in financial scrutiny at different stages of policy development from formulation of the initial idea within a Government department right through to policy implementation. It gives some ideas of the types of questions that Members can ask and what a good or poor response on the part of Government might look like. It also explains how the Scrutiny Unit can help Members with financial scrutiny. The guide is illustrated by examples of how Select Committees have engaged in financial scrutiny in practice.

This booklet provides a guide to financial scrutiny , why it matters, what it involves and how it links to performance.  It sets out the key stages in the spending cycle and the role committees and others play in holding government to account.  (2nd edition, last revised September 2012).

Some of the content in this publication is out of date, such as the references to the Spending Review in 2010. Since then there have been two further Spending Reviews , in 2013 and 2015.  An updated edition of the booklet is in preparation.

This document also makes reference to a "fiscal mandate to achieve a cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the rolling five year forecast period." The Summer Budget 2015 replaced this with a "draft Charter which sets out:

  • a target for surplus on public sector net borrowing in 2019-20
  • to run a surplus each subsequent year as long as the economy remains in normal times."

Understanding Government finance 

This note provides a summary of changes in Government financial management in recent years, including changes in the way departments report their finances and performance to Parliament.  It includes an organisational chart showing the organisations involved in financial scrutiny and a timeline which shows the timing of the presentation of key documents to Parliament (note last updated May 2012).

This note provides the latest guide to the role of Parliament in scrutinising public expenditure planned and incurred by the Government (note updated June 2010).

An abbreviated glossary of the key concepts that appear in Scrutiny Unit financial outputs.

An expanded glossary of financial terms, with particular reference to Government.

Please note that current guidance to Government Departments on preparation of Estimates memoranda for Committees is now contained on the HM Treasury website.

An archive of older material prepared by the Scrutiny Unit is available on our Archives page

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