The prime minister has launched a government-wide review of major projects in a bid to “root out any waste”, No.10 has said.
Boris Johnson has instructed his cabinet to look at every major project underway in their departments, telling ministers it is “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” that do not align with his government’s priorities.
As well as looking at overall value for money, ministers were asked to rank so-called “legacy” projects – those set up under Johnson’s predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron – according to whether they line up with the Conservative Party’s most recent election manifesto. No specific projects were mentioned during the discussion, which took place during yesterday's cabinet meeting.
The review comes ahead of the government’s first post-Brexit Budget, which Sajid Javid, the chancellor, announced yesterday would take place on 11 March.
Johnson and Javid told the cabinet yesterday that “tough decisions” were needed to support the Budget, which will focus on delivering the Tories’ election manifesto promises, his official spokesperson said.
The pledges include extra money for the NHS and a police recruitment drive, and are likely to leave little extra money for day to day spending increases, Javid told ministers. The government has also pledged to recruit 50,000 extra nurses – a hotly-contested figure, as the number includes some existing nurses – and an extra £1bn a year for social care.
“This is a new government with a new mandate, including to level up across the country, invest in infrastructure and tackle climate change,” the spokesperson said.
No.10 said the review was intended to ensure money is being spent effectively, rather than to cut spending.
They spokesperson added: “The chancellor and the prime minister said the Budget is also the time to take tough decisions in order to prepare the economy for the next decade.
“They said ministers need to root out any waste, particularly anything that is not aligned with the government's priorities, and demonstrate value for money of every pound of taxpayers' money that we spend.”
The review comes amid concern about the spiralling costs of some major projects, including the high-speed rail link HS2, which is projected to be completed years late and billions of pounds over budget. Last summer then-chief secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss hinted that the project’s future was not guaranteed, and an independent review launched last August on the costs, benefits and future of HS2 is expected to publish its findings in the coming months.
Setting out his Budget priorities yesterday, Javid said the cost of living would also be a major focus. The chancellor has already confirmed plans to increase the national minimum wage by 6.2% in April to £8.72 per hour, reaching £10.50 an hour by 2040.
Other existing spending commitments include support for environment initiatives such as £9.2bn to improve insulation in schools and hospitals; a £3bn skills fund for further education and training; and higher per-pupil school spending.
“With this Budget we will unleash Britain’s potential – uniting our great country, opening a new chapter for our economy and ushering in a decade of renewal,” Javid said.