By Will Horwitz
A cross-party group of MPs are the latest in a lengthening line to call for a focus on longer term budgeting in Government, following the LGA, the IPPR, Action for Children and the Fabian Society all in recent weeks and of course the Early Action Task Force.
Yesterday’s report into fixed term parliaments by the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee called for fixed-term spending reviews to match fixed term parliaments, saying:
“Financial planning is the bedrock of long-term Departmental planning; without a clear indication of spending plans, short-termism in delivery and policy formulation is bound to prevail. We call on the Government to produce a rolling five-year Spending Review, which is aligned more tightly to the fixed term, so that Departments can plan as effectively as possible.”
The committee’s chair – Task Force member Graham Allen MP, renowned champion of early intervention - said “We want our politicians – and civil servants – focussed on planning and delivery of good policy. Creating as much certainty and stability as possible must help with that.”
It echoes calls in the LGA’s new Rewiring Public Services campaign released late last month, which recommends “transforming public services so they prevent problems instead of just picking up the pieces” including through “a multi-year funding settlement aligned to the end of the next parliament which will enable councils to invest in economic growth and prevention rather than cure.”
This increasing focus on the longer term is extremely welcome and something we have been pushing for since the launch of the Triple Dividend almost two years ago; it would allow departments to invest now and save later without the short-term pressures of constant funding changes. Five years is the limit on firm spending plans of course because no Government will be able to tie the hands of its successor with anything longer, but we hope the focus on ten years and future generations will not be forgotten, because it is over these timescales that early action makes even more sense. If, hopefully when, five year spending plans are implemented we’d hope to see a ten year test embedded at their heart, with government publishing the ‘year one’ and ‘year ten’ costs of every policy as the Fabian’s Commission recommends.
We have always said early action is common sense and increasingly people seem to accept one of the principle recommendations as common sense too; no other organisation would plan for only a year, and neither should the Treasury.