Spending Review 2013: History Repeating?


As the Spending Review (26 June) draws closer, speculation is rife about whether or not, and how, George Osborne will achieve the extra £11.5 billion in savings from welfare and departmental spending in 2015-16 that he is said to want. So far only about £3.6bn has been agreed, and the rest is the subject of fierce fighting across Whitehall.

In this context I found this fascinating section in a book about the history of the UK Treasury:

“ The retrenchment scheme of 22 July 1668, which made a detailed apportionment of the king’s annual expenditure, totalling £746,475 15s 10d plus £250,000 for interest charges and contingencies, was the product of a Privy Council sub-committee of five (alter seven) senior ministers and five Treasury Lords. In their proceedings the onus lay primarily on the ministers to make economies in the departments – the various branches of the royal household, the forces, the pension list, embassies, etc. Initially, they worked with pathetic timidity: ‘the Cormorant Keeper to be taken away by which will be saved £84. Keeper of the Volary cut off, £30.’ In November 1667 Charles was presented with an estimate that, against revenue of less than £900,000 p.a. he must set an annual expenditure of £1, 242, 855 16s 8d. Dismayed, he ordered the committee to try again….” (The Treasury 1660-1870, Henry Roseveare, 1973).

Sounds familiar?

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government. Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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