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UK government scraps three-year Spending Review due to COVID-19

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2 min read
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Photo: HM Treasury
UK prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak. Photo: HM Treasury

The government has scrapped plans for a comprehensive Whitehall budget for the next three years, instead opting for a 12-month plan.

The Treasury on Wednesday said it would drop plans for a long-delayed three-year Spending Review, instead opting for just a one-year plan.

A Spending Review sets the day-to-day budgets for each Whitehall department, the NHS, and block grants for devolved administrations for the following three years. It typically lets the government allocate resources to key policy areas for the duration of their parliament.

READ MORE: Chancellor tells Whitehall to get ready for budget cuts

The Treasury said the Spending Review would be delayed “in order to prioritise the response to COVID-19, and our focus on supporting jobs.”

“In the current environment it’s essential that we provide certainty,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said in a statement. “So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling Covid and delivering our Plan for Jobs.”

A full Spending Review last took place in 2015. Former chancellor Philip Hammond initially announced plans for a follow-on review in spring 2019. However, his successor at the Treasury, Sajid Javid, shelved those plans in August 2019, saying the government needed to focus on Brexit.

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READ MORE: Chancellor Javid axes spending review to focus on Brexit

Sunak revived plans for a full three year review in July this year. At the time, he said the review would allocate resources towards “levelling up” the regions of the UK and turning Britain into a scientific “superpower.”

The Treasury said Wednesday that the one year view would focus primarily on COVID-19 and public services but would also allocate some resources towards infrastructure investment.

“Long-term investment in our country’s future is the right thing to do, especially in areas which are the cornerstone of our society like the NHS, schools and infrastructure,” Sunak said.

“We’ll make sure these areas crucial to our economic recovery have their budgets set for further years so they can plan and help us Build Back Better.”

READ MORE: UK government debt at highest level in 60 years

The precise date for the one-year review’s conclusion has not yet been set but it is due to conclude by the end of November.

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