31 Aug 2010

George Osborne’s spending lessons from Nigel Lawson

I hear George Osborne has been reading Nigel Lawson’s memoirs on his holidays. He was particularly struck by just what a false economy cosy spending deals between the treasury and departments can be.

Back in the 1984 Spending Round, Nigel Lawson recalls, his then deputy, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Peter Rees, came to an amicable spending deal with Keith Joseph, then education secretary. All very neat, tidy and time-saving … or not. It meant nobody spotted the attempt to introduce means-tested tuition fees until too late and a cabinet revolt broke out.

So George Osborne thinks having Star Chamber sessions where other ministers get to look over their fellow cabinet members’ plans are probably a good idea. Even if it does mean more potential for leaks.

The FT reports this morning how transport, environment, culture and justice might be able to settle ahead of the conference season.

That’s looking extremely unlikely in defence, DWP, business, schools and health. These departments’ budgets will probably go to the Star Chamber and the week beginning 11 October will be one of the most testing for the coalition.

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