Parliamentary Committee to probe future budget choices


The pressures on future Scottish Government spending will be the subject of a Scottish Parliament inquiry.

 The Finance Committee will today begin seeking views on the effects of the recession on Scottish public bodies, the anticipated pressures on the Scottish budget for 2009-10 and particularly for 2010-11, and the longer-term prospects for Scottish Government spending.

Launching the inquiry, Committee Convener Andrew Welsh MSP said: “The effects of the recession were not predicted at the time the budget for 2010-11 was first set out in the Scottish Budget Spending Review 2007.

"Several decisions since then, including bringing forward capital spending into earlier years and the effects of £5 billion efficiency savings announced by the UK Government, could mean the budget for 2010-11 will be very different from the budget as originally planned.

"Some public bodies may face particular issues due to increased demand for some services and reduced income opportunities. All of them, however, are expected to face tough choices in the near future as public spending tightens.

"The committee will examine these issues to help prepare the Parliament for scrutinising the difficult decisions ahead. We welcome views on the impact of the recession and the difficult strategic choices that will need to be addressed for the future course of public spending in Scotland.”

Call for evidence
The committee is issuing a call for all interested groups and individuals to provide evidence on these issues. The committee will consider:

  • the impact of the recession on public sector budgets in Scotland for 2009-10 and in future years
  • in particular, the pressures and demands on the Scottish Government’s 2010-11 budget
  • the likely implications for the Scottish Government’s budget in the longer term.

Those submitting evidence can address any aspect of these issues. However, some particular questions could include:

  • What are the effects of recession on the Scottish Government and on bodies funded by it?
  • What direct effects are already being seen through such aspects as increased demand for services, reduced income streams and higher costs?
  • How will these effects develop, and what impacts are they expected to have on different public bodies and on the services they provide?
  • To what extent are public bodies able to take action to mitigate the effects, manage the risks and threats and prepare contingency plans for different scenarios?
  • How can the Scottish Government’s budget best be used to combat the effects of recession?
  • It is already known that there will be pressures on the 2010-11 budget, such as reductions to balance the capital spending that has been brought forward and the consequences of budget cuts due to increased efficiency savings. What are the likely effects of these pressures on different areas of public spending?
  • What is known about the longer term demands or cost pressures on different public service areas and budgets, such as spending that cannot be changed, changes in demographics or patterns of service use, or known major-project commitments?
  • What are the priority areas for spending in future budgets, and what flexibility is there to respond to these?

The Committee also plans to hold a series of evidence hearings, beginning after the UK Budget is announced (expected on 22 April).

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