Fast-track spending review given go-ahead as Brexit deadline looms

Boris Johnson’s Government will fast-track efforts to draw up public spending and investment plans ahead of the looming Brexit deadline.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said he and the Prime Minister have asked for a 12-month spending round to be completed in September instead of a lengthier exercise in a bid to free up departments.

This will cover day-to-day department budgets for 2020/21, rather than a three-year period first mooted by the previous government, as the UK prepares to leave the EU on October 31.

The Treasury added the review will meet existing fiscal rules established by former chancellor Philip Hammond, aimed at keeping borrowing under control and debt falling, while pursuing Mr Johnson’s desire to fund 20,000 extra police officers, increase school funding and meet NHS pledges.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Johnson’s administration also intends to maintain spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, which amounts to some £14 billion a year.

Mr Javid said: “We will get Brexit done by October 31 and put our country on the road to a brighter future.

“The Prime Minister and I have asked for a fast-tracked spending round for September to set departmental budgets for next year.

“This will clear the ground ahead of Brexit while delivering on people’s priorities.”

Spending reviews tend to cover periods of three or four years and involve discussions between departments and the Treasury over funding settlements.

A full spending review is scheduled to take place in 2020.

Treasury minister Rishi Sunak said of the fast-track review: “We will invest in the priority areas of schools and policing, while delivering our promises on the NHS, defence and Official Development Assistance (ODA).”

Mr Hammond last month sounded a note of caution against turning on the spending taps as he explained how the new government would have to decide the length of the spending review and judge what is right for the circumstances.

He told MPs: “The purpose of a spending review is these things can be looked at in the round, and the responsible way to do a spending review is to first set the envelope of what is affordable and then to look at the different bids, which will, I can confidently predict, greatly exceed the available envelope of spending power, and prioritise.

“That’s the difficult business of government.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “This smacks of pre-election panic measures by the Government.

“Johnson is splashing a little bit of cash as a publicity stunt, but keeping the door open for even more austerity if a no deal Brexit breaks the economy.”

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