Javid and Johnson pledge ‘tough decisions’ as review of major projects gets underway

Written by Beckie Smith and Sam Trendall on 9 January 2020 in News

Ministers have been instructed to examine all schemes across their departments as PM foresees ‘slaughtering of sacred cows’

Credit: PA

The prime minister has launched a government-wide review of major projects in a bid to “root out any waste”, No.10 has said.

Boris Johnson has instructed his cabinet to look at every major project underway in their departments, telling ministers it is “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” that do not align with his government’s priorities.

As well as looking at overall value for money, ministers were asked to rank so-called “legacy” projects – those set up under Johnson’s predecessors, Theresa May and David Cameron – according to whether they line up with the Conservative Party’s most recent election manifesto. No specific projects were mentioned during the discussion, which took place during yesterday's cabinet meeting.

The assessment comes ahead of the government’s first post-Brexit Budget, which Sajid Javid, the chancellor, announced yesterday would take place on 11 March.

Johnson and Javid told the cabinet this week that “tough decisions” were needed to support the Budget, which will focus on delivering the Tories’ election manifesto promises, his official spokesperson said.

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The review takes places against a backdrop of concerns about the spiralling costs of some major projects, such as the high-speed rail link HS2, which is projected to be completed years late and billions of pounds over budget. 

That programme of work is just one of 133 that constitute the Government Major Projects Portfolio. Among them are 27 ICT projects that are expected to collectively cost the government £10bn. 

In the most recent annual report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which includes traffic-light ratings for each project, one ICT scheme was ranked red; this means that “successful delivery of the project appears unachievable”. 

A further nine were rated as amber-red, with 12 amber, and three amber-green. Just two ICT projects were considered green – meaning that work is fully on time and on budget, with no major issues currently threatening progress.

Outside of these ICT schemes, numerous other programmes in the portfolio also feature significant technology elements. None more so than the troubled Home Office-led project to deliver the Emergency Services Network – which, during its lifespan, has been beset by numerous delays, while the expected cost has near doubled to £9.3bn.

No.10 said the review was intended to ensure money is being spent effectively, rather than to cut spending.

The spokesperson added: “The chancellor and the prime minister said the Budget is also the time to take tough decisions in order to prepare the economy for the next decade.  They said ministers need to root out any waste, particularly anything that is not aligned with the government's priorities, and demonstrate value for money of every pound of taxpayers' money that we spend.”


About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @Beckie__Smith.

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