account arrow-down-linearrow-down-small arrow-downarrow-download arrow-left-small arrow-leftarrow-link arrow-rightarrow-upaudio-less-volume audio-not-playing audio-plus-volume audio awarded books calendar close-modal closedate document education emailevent Facebookhamburger impact instagramjustice linkedin location-outline location opinion page phonepinterestplay pluspost preview project reports search-bigsearch-old search share startime twitterwelfare youtube zoom-in zoom-out

How effectively does the government control its spending?

By Nuffield Foundation

Governments are responsible for spending huge amounts of public money.

Effective control of that spending is essential if governments are to meet their fiscal objectives, deliver their desired policy outcomes, and achieve value for money for the taxpayer.

A new IFS report, published today as part of a wider study of the history of public expenditure control funded by the Nuffield Foundation, uses more than twenty years of data to analyse the planning and control of public expenditure between 1993 and 2015.

This period includes times of public expenditure restraint (the 1990s and 2010s) and of increased spending (between 2000 and 2010). It also includes periods of single-party and coalition governments, changing macroeconomic conditions, and numerous reforms to the framework for planning and controlling public spending. Over these different periods with different contexts, rules and measurements, on the whole, spending has been controlled quite effectively – in the sense that spending has not tended to turn out too differently to final plans. There are clearly strong incentives for departments not to overspend. Even in the face of deep budget cuts since 2010, departments have continued to underspend by a considerable amount. The IFS analysis suggests, however, that this is far from the whole story.

Read the full Observation on the IFS website >>

By Nuffield Foundation

Explore our projects

Search projects

We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.