Today's the day – at 12:30pm chancellor George Osborne will get to his feet in the Commons and unveil his Comprehensive Spending Review, setting out the government's plans for departmental spending over the next five years. The CSR will undoubtedly have massive implications for the size and shape of the civil service, the role of the state, and the future of public service delivery. We'll also be getting the latest fiscal picture in the Autumn Statement – which could see another shift in the chancellor's deficit reduction strategy – as well as independent scrutiny of the public finances from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
While the chancellor has saved most of the big announcements for today, there have been a number of significant developments ahead of the Spending Review. Here's a quick roundup of some of the big pre-Spending Review stories CSW has covered recently:
Analysis and opinion
Since the announcement of the Spending Review, CSW's team of expert columnists have been analysing what today's announcement is likely to mean for the civil service workforce and the future of public services – and asking whether the Treasury could have gone about the process in a better way.
We'll have more in-depth reaction this afternoon – but here's a selection of some of the columns we've commissioned in recent months.
Peter Riddell, the Institute for Government: "There will be tricky trade-offs. But the indicated shift in relative pay between the public and private sectors may reduce the attractiveness of working in the civil service, affecting both recruitment and retention. And the really tough news for the civil service will come in the autumn."
Josie Cluer, former BIS special adviser, now at Moorhouse consulting: "The challenge of achieving 25%-40% savings in unprotected departments is daunting. But, by transforming services – by understanding service users, harnessing the power of technology, and working across government both nationally and locally to integrate services – significant improvements can be achieved, at the same time as reducing costs."
Jane Dudman, CSW columnist: "What would the chancellor need, if he were putting together a truly democratic, evidence-led budget for the next four years? First, he’d want excellent information about the state of current public services and about the impact of potential cuts on those services. A private business of comparable size would give as much data as possible to its most senior managers, to enable them to assess competing priorities for the business."
Naomi Cooke, the FDA union: "Cuts are being called for and doubtless cuts will be imposed, but at what price? Signs are there that the continuing onslaught of directives from HM Treasury – on pay, exit packages, departmental budgets – might be causing more costly problems than are being generated in atomised budget reductions."
Stian Westlake, Nesta: "The Treasury combines the roles of a finance ministry, a budgetary ministry, and an economics ministry. To put it another way, it is responsible for managing the government’s borrowing and the health of the wider financial system; for balancing the government’s books and approving spending; and for the growth of the wider economy. You would hard pushed to find a single ministry in any other rich country that combined these roles."
Dave Penman, the FDA union: "The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that a further four years of pay restraint “will take public sector pay levels well below their long-term average relative to pay in the private sector, and indeed well below anything seen since we can readily make comparisons back to the early 1990s”. Yet the government seems oblivious to the impact this will have over the longer term."
Rob Whiteman, CIPFA: "In continuing to duck the challenges of a more informed conversation and relying on an over simplified narrative of spending and cuts, government and all parties are collectively turning a blind eye to some uncomfortable problems."
Dr Joachim Wehner, LSE: "Without detailed spending plans for each department, subjected to careful parliamentary scrutiny and public debate, it will be difficult to safeguard the quality of expenditure over the coming years. The UK has a strong record in macro-fiscal transparency, but there is no room for complacency."
Garry Graham, Prospect union: "Five more years of austerity in our public services – where all the 'quick wins' and 'low hanging fruit' have already been banked or plucked – makes for a tough environment for those who devote their careers to working in the public interest."
Stay tuned to CSW today for our rolling blog covering the chancellor's statement live, and sign-up for our e-mail bulletins to keep up with the biggest civil service stories and reaction