5 Jun 2013

Spending ministers looking like ‘national union of mice’

I hear that after the chancellor and the chief secretary addressed cabinet yesterday about the need for departments without agreement on their 2015-16 budgets to get serious and fast there was not a squeak from any of the relevant ministers.

“Not so much the national union of ministers as the national union of mice,” one cabinet source said.

Those ministers the source was primarily referring to are Owen Paterson, Philip Hammond and Vince Cable, though quite a few others are also still to settle.

About a month ago their departments, DEFRA, MoD and BIS, had offered up virtually nothing substantial for the chopping board as far as the Treasury was concerned.

Now, I hear, they have produced potential cuts for discussion that could get them two thirds or three quarters of the way to the sum the Treasury’s demanding – though some of the items will have significant political pain/risk warnings attached.

There are endless bilaterals this week to go through the detail. While Labour’s leadership carries on its dance of the seven welfare veils, the coalition not as off-track as it was piling up new cuts, beyond welfare, that Labour may yet have to admit it will not be able to reverse.

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