Spending round pledges support for HMRC transformation

Written by Richard Johnstone and Sam Trendall on 5 September 2019 in News

Not a single department has seen its budget cut in plans announced by chancellor Sajid Javid

Credit: PA

Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced that all government departments will see their spending limits increase "at least in line with inflation" in 2020-21, telling MPs that this is the first time in 15 years no ministry has faced cuts in a spending review.  

Among the initiatives to receive financial backing was the long-term tech transformation taking place at HM Revenue and Customs, which was picked out in yesterday's spending round as a programme that would receive ongoing support.

In a fast-tracked review of spending levels for 2020-21, Javid (pictured above) confirmed the funding for a series of policy pledges announced since Boris Johnson became prime minister, as part of plans to increase spending by £7.1bn by 2022-23.

Overall, day-to-day departmental spending will grow by 4.1% above inflation in 2020-21, with an overall £13.8bn more for public services, according to the Treasury.

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There are comparatively few mentions of tech and transformation, but the settlement for HMRC will contain “continued funding to support HMRC’s ongoing transformation programme”, the Treasury said.

“This will continue the successful rollout and operation of Making Tax Digital for VAT, increase the uptake of HMRC’s digital services, maintain HMRC’s IT infrastructure and consolidate the HMRC estate into 13 large, modern regional centres by 2023,” it added.

Javid told MPs that this “big increase in public spending” would invest in “the people’s priorities” and added that this “inevitably means difficult decisions elsewhere” in government budgets.

“Every spending review presented to this House over the last 15 years has had to find cuts from [some] departments,” he said. "This party has never shied away from the difficult decisions to live within our means. Those decisions were tough, but they have paid off.

“And, so, I can announce today that no department will be cut next year. Every single government department has had its budget for day-to-day spending increased at least in line with inflation. That’s what I mean by the end of austerity.”

Among the smaller tech-related spending pledges was £100m committed to equipping prisons “airport-style scanner, mobile phone detection and prevention technology, and anti-corruption and intelligence operations”.

Some £30m will be spent on “cutting-edge technology and the best intelligence and law enforcement capabilities” to help protect children from abuse and sexual exploitation, while a chunk of the £200m put into improving bus services will also be spent on new technology.

Javid said the review would “deliver on the people’s priorities across the NHS, education and police, giving certainty to all departments about their budgets for next year, and clearing the decks for government to focus on delivering Brexit”.

The chancellor said that, as he announced "spending plans for Britain’s first year outside the European Union" the government is " turning the page on austerity and beginning a new decade of renewal.”

Javid also confirmed that £2bn would be made available in 2020-21 for spending related to leaving the European Union.

In his statement, Javid commended the Treasury civil servants for delivering “the fastest Spending Round in history”.


About the author

Richard Johnstone is deputy and online editor of PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @CSW_DepEd.

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