UK Government To Present ‘United’ Spending Front, Says Treasury Perm Sec

By on 03/08/2015 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The UK Government will present a ‘united’ spending front, says its permanent secretary Sir Nicholas Macpherson

The British government will be “more united than ever before” when setting out its broad fiscal plan for the next four years, the top civil servant at its Treasury has said.

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will announce the government’s spending review in November, outlining how it wants to eliminate the deficit by 2019-20.

In the run-up to this announcement, departments will have to engage in bilateral negotiations with the Treasury – negotiating administration and programme spending – with most of them receiving smaller budgets.

This process, analysts argue, is not conducive to achieving cross-departmental collaboration and one-government outcomes – something supposedly championed by this government.

However, speaking in an exclusive interview with Global Government Forum, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, permanent secretary of HM Treasury, said: “I am confident that we will present a more united front in this spending review than ever before.

“Of course, you have to have a relationship between [each] department and the Treasury because it’s the department which receives the money. But I think there is also scope to look at a number of cross-cutting issues in a more horizontal way, and although it would be premature to announce how we’re going to do that, I’m confident that we will have good examples of cross-cutting work which cuts across departmental boundaries.”

He added that these one-government projects will have the prime minister’s and chancellor’s backing.

Macpherson also said that more collaboration has already been achieved under prime minister David Cameron, who won a second five-year term in a general election this May.

This, he said, had worked in part because the centre of government – the prime minister’s office (Number 10 Downing Street), the Treasury and the Cabinet Office – are working more closely together. Referring to the tensions between PM Tony Blair and his chancellor Gordon Brown during the 2000s, he said: “I can remember, going back to the other end of my career, from time to time there were quite big differences in views between Numbers 10 and 11 [where the chancellor is based],” Macpherson said.

“I think one of the impressive things about this government is the extraordinarily close relationship between David Cameron and George Osborne, and I think that’s mirrored on an official level by the similar relationship between myself, Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, and John Manzoni, the chief executive of the civil service.”

However, Macpherson also called for a “more open dialogue between the Treasury and departments. I do think the Treasury and departments can be open with each other and I would strongly encourage them to work at that.”


See also: our full interview with Sir Nicholas Macpherson

and news: Macpherson To Stay At UK Treasury ‘For A While Yet’ 

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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