The Institute of Government has pointed out that although by 2014-15 public spending as a share of national income would be back to the same level as it was in 2006-7, the composition of that spending would be very different. Expansions in the share of national income spent on pensioner benefits, the NHS and overseas aid would be funded through reduced spend on education, law and order and defence.
At Fathom Consulting's quarterly Monetary Policy Forum, the former Home Office permanent secretary Sir John Grieve said 'it seems most improbable' that the government would hold fast to its plans. Rachel Lomax, a former permanent secretary of three government departments, said the public might not accept large cuts in police and prisons that had not been flagged before the election.
The Public Accounts Committee has expressed doubts over the Government's ability to make genuine efficiency savings. Whitehall failed to make the mere 3 per cent savings set out in the 2007 comprehensive spending review. Two years into the three year programme to release £35bn in cash from efficiency, only £15bn of savings were reported. Of those, the National Audit Office, it judged only 38 per cent, or less than £6bn, to be value for money savings.
The committee is concerned that in order to reduce costs, departments will rely soley on cutting frontline services. The committee says it was concerned at the implications of evidence from the Treasury 'that it will simply reduce departments' budgets and then walk away from the responsibility for the delivery of the level of savings required across government.'
Of course, cutting back office services can have its impact. There are two EU committees working in a technical area which have been highly dependent on the UK and the Netherlands for their work, although with general political support from other North European countries. The UK may now not be able to afford to be involved. Up to now UK interests have been very well looked after because of its involvement.