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Labour must restore broken trust in public spending

Labour should radically review how spending is assessed and audited in order to restore public trust, according to a new report.


Press release

Contact: Emma Burnell, Media Consultant, Fabian Society

07851 941111 |

Labour must restore broken trust in public spending

Labour should radically review how spending is assessed and audited in order to restore public trust, according to a new report.

· Labour should set up a new Office for Spending Efficiently (OfSE)

· It should create a new arm for the National Audit Office to investigate council, police and NHS spending

· Scrutiny of spending must take into account equality and environmental sustainability

A study published today by the Fabian Society calls for all spending to be checked in advance for deliverability, overseen by a new office to be established jointly between the Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

it should have the power to check departments’ plans in advance, to ensure money won’t be wasted but will maximise impact. It would have full oversight over how government buys goods and services, especially from private contractors. It would ensure that previous reports from the National Audit Office identifying inefficiencies are acted on.

Had it existed in March 2020, an Office of Spending Effectively could have called a halt on the Conservative government’s Covid crony-driven procurement.

Spending checks should not just examine the ‘three Es’ of efficiency, effectiveness and economy. The report argues for a new focus on checking whether spending is fair and equitable and takes the environment and climate change into account.

The report addresses the confusion surrounding how spending by councils and NHS trusts is audited. A new Place Audit Office would examine the totality of local spending in areas, including councils, combined authorities, NHS trusts, school academies, multi-academy trusts, transport authorities and the police. The office would be a new unit in the highly respected National Audit Office with its own governance arrangements to reflect local government’s constitutional position.

Commenting on the report, the chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier, said: “Every minister and councillor should read this report. Audit which supports local politicians and citizens to focus on the issues and risks that matter is much needed. And any right-thinking government minister should see that without the warnings that auditors can flag, there is the perennial risk that good money will follow bad.”

Report author John Tizard, former joint council leader and advisor, said: “Significant increases in public spending are essential to address inequity, inequality and the damage done by a decade of austerity and ideological outsourcing. This requires Labour to rebuild its fiscal credibility and demonstrate its commitment to the effective stewardship of public spending.”

Report author David Walker, former director of the Audit Commission, said: “Some of the most distinguished chairs of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee have been Labour MPs and it’s time the party recovered its strong commitment to ensuring public spending delivers.”

– Ends –


1. Contact: Emma Burnell, Media Consultant, Fabian Society or 07851 941111.

2. Download an embargoed copy of Prizing the Public Pound. [INSERT LINK]

3. The report is published by the Fabian Society and edited by Kate Murray.

4. The Fabian Society is Britain’s oldest political think tank. Founded in 1884, the society is at the forefront of developing political ideas and public policy on the left. The society is alone among think tanks in being a democratically-constituted membership organisation, with over 7,000 members. It is constitutionally affiliated to the Labour party.

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