Away from Brexit, another politically and economically significant development took place earlier this week below the radar. In an op-ed for the Sunday Telegraph, Liz Truss, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, fired the starting gun for the Government’s 2019 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and promising to “junk the white elephants” of programmes that haven’t worked.
First introduced by Gordon Brown as a means to bring about more certainty for funding of services and government programmes, the CSR is a formal governmental process carried out by the Treasury to set limits on spending and define the key improvements that the public can expect from these resources. Since 2010, we’ve seen three spending reviews and the 2019 CSR will set a framework for spending up until the end of 2024.
From a political perspective, many Conservatives are hoping that this CSR will be used as an opportunity to reset the narrative in the media post-Brexit – but what can we expect to see?
Truss gave some strong clues on HM Treasury’s priorities in her op-ed, stating that the Government wants to use the CSR as “catalyst to unleash the economy” and “reduce living costs”. All major investment projects need to deliver a “bang for buck” and there was a call to move beyond traditional economic models and take lessons from across the world; from Shanghai on how to deliver top-flight education, to the US on how to revive manufacturing. Unsurprisingly, housing was also singled out as the number one priority with Truss praising Tokyo’s liberal planning system as an effective way to make housing more affordable .
Reading all of this and the analysis from Conservative commentators, it is clear that free marketeers are hoping to use the 2019 CSR to put Corbynomics on the back foot ahead of the next General Election. But, as this week has shown, it is not entirely clear that Theresa May’s deal or a No Deal scenario will afford the Tories the opportunity to do so.