Cross-government costings of Labour policies will not be published

Analysis of policies drawn up as part of policy planning, government confirms

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell had called the possible publication of the costings "an abuse of power". Photo: PA

By Richard Johnstone

06 Nov 2019

Costings developed by a number of government departments of Labour Party policies are not to be published, after the government ran out of time before the imposition of pre-election rules to clear the analysis, Civil Service World has been told.

CSW understands that analysis of a small number of Labour Party policies have been produced in a cross-government exercise, with the aim of informing how government would implement the plans if the party were to win the upcoming election on 12 December.

However, efforts to publish the plans were timed out by the introduction at midnight last night of the pre-election period rules, which restrict on what civil servants can publish.


CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome reported that chancellor Sajid Javid told a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday morning that the Treasury had calculated the cost of nine Labour policies and planned to publish the findings before the pre-election period.

However, it reported that cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill ruled at 5pm that it would be inappropriate for the civil service to produce the document and said he would not allow it.

A Treasury source told PoliticsHome: "This is a very well established process and has been going on since Gordon Brown's time.

"It's a very ordinary thing for the Treasury to look at opposition policies and work out how much they would cost to implement.

"The work has been going on for a good couple of weeks and Sedwill was aware of it – it's not a surprise that it's come up.

"Last week we were talking about how it would be handled and when we were putting it out. But [Treasury permanent secretary] Tom Scholar spoke to [shadow chancellor] John McDonnell on Tuesday morning and he went bananas, saying it was a terrible waste of resources.

"There was then a call between Tom Scholar and Mark Sedwill and Sedwill said no."

The Cabinet Office said it would not comment on speculation about Sedwill's role.

Government costings of opposition policies are undertaken at each election and are frequently published. The most recent to have been released was a 2015 analysis of Labour’s plans.

However, the snap election announcemenr has not allowed time to prepare the plans for publication, according to the Treasury. This was also the case in the snap election called by Theresa May in 2017.

McDonnell had earlier told The Independent any costings would amount to "an abuse of power".

 He said: "The Treasury civil servant phoned me up this morning to confirm that that was happening today. What he said is they've looked at a range of our policy statements.

"I said first of all, you do not know what is in the manifesto so that is pure speculation. Secondly, this being done within hours of the formal campaign being undertaken. Thirdly, I think it's an abuse of power.

"I suggested he goes back to the Cabinet Office and advises them it is completely contrary to everything we expect from the civil service in this country. I'm happy for anyone to examine our policies, but to do this hours before a general election campaign is I think an abuse of power."

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