George Osborne

Think tanks on… the Comprehensive Spending Review

George Osborne is due to publish the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 25th November, where he will set out how the public sector will have to deliver the £20 billion further savings required to eliminate Britain’s deficit by 2019/2020.

So, what does it all mean? The Institute for Government argues that the hard work remains to be done, taking a look at implications for DfT, DEFRA, DCLG and the Treasury – all of whom will have their budgets cut by 30% up to 2020. More broadly, IfG casts doubt on the government’s intention to deliver ‘more with less’, although it certainly agrees that there will be much less to manage with.

The Institute of Economic Affairs argues that this presents an opportunity to rethink the state, pointing out that the ring-fencing (particularly relating to NHS and school spending) and salami-slicing that characterised the previous Comprehensive Spending Review was not the most economically sensible approach. Instead, IEA offers six principles for doing things more prudently this time round.

There are no easy ways to make these savings. So what are Osborne’s options then? Asset sales, reimagining boundaries between departments, or finding other people to pay, according to the Social Market Foundation. This needs to be about ideas, not just budgets, says Reform, claiming that public sector leaders are committed to improving services, but need more help and a clear lead from the government to do so.

Prime Economics bemoans ‘surplus zealotry’, attacking the Comprehensive Spending Review as “a political project devoid of economic merit or fiscal necessity”, and posits an alternative budget framework that avoid all the major real-term cuts proposed but still achieve a balanced budget by 2020.