Public Accounts Committee

Driving value in public spending inquiry

Inquiry status: Concluded

Report published on 8 February 2019. Government response published May 2019.

Report and response published

Scope of the inquiry

The 2015 Spending Review allocated £4 trillion of public spending for the five years to 2020-21. The government’s framework for planning and spending this allocation involves three key players: the Treasury is responsible for distributing and controlling funding to departments, running spending reviews and setting rules for how money should be spent; departments plan and deliver their objectives and manage these budgets, and the Cabinet Office monitors delivery of departments’ objectives and government priorities, as well as overseeing departmental business planning.

A recent National Audit Office report found that although the Treasury is controlling public spending in a relatively effective way and the Cabinet Office is taking steps to improve business planning in departments, the government needs to have a more integrated planning and spending framework across departments. There is evidence that over-optimistic, short-term and siloed decision-making could make plans undeliverable and unaffordable – putting public services and value for money for UK taxpayers at risk. 

The report also found that cross-government work can be ineffective. Only a third of officials across departments who responded to the NAO’s survey agreed that Treasury spending teams provided sufficient mechanisms to support and encourage departments to work together. Departments have had to deliver more with less, including complex long-term programmes to transform public services. These programmes cut across departments, but the structure of government means they are planning and delivering them in silos, undermining value for money and negatively affecting local services.

On 12 December, the Committee will question John Manzoni, Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office, and James Bowler, Director General for Public Spending at the Treasury, about the action they are taking to move towards a more integrated approach to assessing and measuring value across government. Ahead of the 2019 Spending Review, the Committee will also explore how the government plans to set priorities, allocate money and monitor performance of departments.

You can read about the Committee’s previous report into Spending, Performance and Departmental Plans here.

If you would like to submit written evidence to this inquiry, please email

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