Snip snip: Osborne slashes £11.5bn from 2015 spending plan

With a month to go until the government has to unveil its spending plans for 2015-16, chancellor George Osborne has a happy announcement: he's 20% of the way to finding the £11.5bn of cuts the government needs.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 28 May 2013

Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much – but 20% is, apparently, an impressive feat: on this morning’s Today programme, Osborne said: ‘I don’t think any chancellor in history has made this much progress with still a month to go’.

Departments were told in March that they’d have to find cuts of up to 10%, and among those who have already complied are the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has agreed to shack up with the Home Office to save on rent.

The Ministry of Justice and the Department of Energy and Climate Change have also agreed to make cuts of between 8% and 10%, as have the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, the Foreign Office and the Northern Ireland Department.

However (and despite the fact that he emphasised this announcement was supposed to be good news, rather than an attempt to shame departments which haven’t settled into doing so), the chancellor pointed out that the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence have yet to finalise their arrangements.

Osborne said that the NHS, education and sections of the defence budget would be ring-fenced, as will the foreign aid budget – which will go down like a lead balloon with Nigel Farrage and friends.

As for the rest of the plans, they are rather lacking in detail – and 2015 is an election year, so this could all just be blithe optimism. Indeed, Osborne said they cover one year, instead of the usual three, because the two sides of the Coalition want to go into the election with separate spending plans. So expect something from Nick Clegg et al in the not-too-distant-future.

The positive side of all this is that, if Osborne’s calculations are correct and all departments make their requisite cuts as agreed, we will be able to get through 2015 without any tax rises. Then again, we've definitely heard that one before...

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