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Whitehall Staff Are Scrambling For Treasury Cash With Green Spending Review On The Horizon

3 min read

Whitehall staff are scrambling to bid for Treasury cash ahead of a Spending Review expected to be held this Autumn.

The fiscal event, which will be held against a backdrop of a £300 billion deficit and Covid’s squeeze on public finances, is still set to reflect the government's ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and could be scattered with green spending. 

A government source said: “This Spending Review is going to be a tight one but I’d say if there’s money for anything it’s green issues.”

The review was put into focus yesterday when Chancellor Rishi Sunak asked the Office for Budget Responsibility to prepare an economic and fiscal forecast by October 27.

No date has been set for the review, which usually accompanies the forecast but there is speculation that doing it before the UK hosts the COP26 climate summit at the end of November could be a chance to showcase green investment to the world.

The review sets the spending for departments and the devolved administrations' block grants over the next three years to the end of the Parliament. Several Whitehall departments are already asking staff to work up their submissions over the summer, with several Westminster insiders PoliticsHome spoke to gearing up for a September deadline.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, is understood to have written to colleagues to get bids in on union related spending, while the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, has written to every department asking for bids. He is also understood to be keen to see ambitious green projects pile into the department for the Treasury's consideration.

As a sign of the level of work going on in Whitehall this summer, a source at one large spending department said they had been asked to get proposals in by the end of next week, although the Treasury said that was not the deadline they have set.

While the Spending Review is due in the Autumn, a Treasury source said: “We haven’t set out when we are going to hold it. The timing of it in relation to COP is very much to be confirmed."

On the review being a green fiscal event, they said: “We set net zero for 2050 and that’s an ambition we want to reach.”

The last Spending Review took place in November 2020 with the Budget in March 2021, which set out 12 months of spending commitments.

This Autumn’s Spending Review for 2022/23 would be set against an economic climate that has been fast changing during the pandemic with rising inflation, an economy growing faster than expected, while Sunak is naturally natural cautious about the scale of borrowing.

In the last Spending Review, the Treasury has committed to £1.9bn for carbon capture and storage, £1.9m for charging infrastructure and £1.13nn to decarbonise homes and buildings.

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