Exactly one month before Christmas Day, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will present his ‘Spending Review 2020’ to Parliament on Wednesday 25 November 2020. A lot of excitement is building up, given that it will only look into the one coming year officially, as word is that inbuilt bias against investment in the North will be rebalanced in the Green Book. Green Book is not just a film nor is it a song sung by Shakin' Stevens in my youth.
To quote the good book itself (and, yes, I do think it is a good book) "the Green Book is guidance issued by HM Treasury on how to appraise policies, programmes and projects. It also provides guidance on the design and use of monitoring and evaluation before, during and after implementation". Life as a government economist is very colourful as "the Green Book should be used alongside other HM Treasury guidance:
- "Managing Public Money" which provides guidance on the responsible use of public resources
- the "Aqua Book" which sets out standards for analytical modelling and assurance
- the "Magenta Book" which provides detailed guidance on evaluation methods.
Green Book guidance applies to all proposals that concern public spending, taxation, changes to regulations, and changes to the use of existing public assets and resources."
Several years ago I wrote rants about how the Green Book and the Magenta Book (I did not know about the Aqua Book then) really did not take into account community benefits and social value in public services and investment. I appreciate that things might be a bit better now on that front, although in truth I don't really understand how.
It would be excellent if changes are made to how value for money is evaluated so that variations in regional economies are properly factored in. But more profoundly, it also would be really propitious if not everything boiled down to numbers, but measures of well-being are adopted in the heart of Treasury policy on the basis that some things are just intrinsically of value. With the perfect storm of Brexit, pandemic and recession hitting us at the end of this decade, it would be great if those who guide our common wealth grasped the vitality and opportunity of embracing the common good.
Northern leaders have tentatively welcomed government plans to rip up rules for the way major infrastructure funding is allocated – which currently favour the south-east. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he will remove and reform longstanding bias, which sees less investment directed to the regions than the capital and its surrounding towns.