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History of the United Kingdom’s planning and control of public expenditure

Researchers: Professor Christopher Hood, FBA CBE | Iain McLean ...

By Nuffield Foundation

Project overview

This three-year project starting in 2017 aims to describe and assess the operation of public expenditure control in the UK between 1993 and 2015 (a period comprising four different spending control regimes under three governments and background conditions ranging from steady economic growth to recession and deep financial crisis).

The project will assess public expenditure control over this period by looking at the statistical record of UK spending plans and outturns and documents relating to the design and efficacy of different spending control regimes in operation. It will supplement that statistical and documentary analysis by extensive interviews with politicians, officials and informed observers involved in spending control over the two decades in question. And it will compare what happened in the UK with a limited analysis of spending-control developments and financial outturns in other developed democracies.

This challenging project involves collaboration between the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Institute for Government, with active support and cooperation from HM Treasury, the UK’s Ministry of Finance. It is led by three experienced researchers, Christopher Hood, Paul Johnson and Iain McLean and it is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the UK Economic and Social Research Council, but with a substantial pro bono contribution as well.

As it prepares to embark on the project, the research team is keen to engage with anyone who was a player in, or a close observer of, public spending control in the UK over the eventful decades from the advent of the ‘new control total’ and PDX Cabinet Committee in the early 1990s to the end of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2015. The team would be pleased to receive suggestions as to who to interview, which cases it would be instructive to examine and by what criteria of efficacy public spending control systems can or should be assessed. Please contact

Latest on this project


  • Professor Christopher Hood, FBA CBE
    University of Oxford
  • Iain McLean
    Nuffield College, Oxford
  • Paul Johnson
    Institute for Fiscal Studies

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation
By Nuffield Foundation

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