Half of Whitehall ‘has agreed cuts deal’

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A further six government departments have agreed to cut their budgets as part of Treasury plans to find £11.5bn worth of savings starting in the month before the general election, Chief Secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander has announced.

More than half of Whitehall has now agreed a settlement but two thirds of the planned reductions have yet to be finalised.

Among the departments announced were the Home Office, run by Theresa May who was reportedly resistant to major cuts and dubbed a member of the “national union of ministers”. The departments of Environment, Culture and Law Officers as well as the Scotland and Wales offices have also agreed to cuts.

Mr Alexander said: “None of the spending choices we make are easy, but ensuring the UK can pay its way in the world is vital to our long terms prosperity. Settling over half of Departments with two weeks to go shows how committed the whole of Government is to dealing with the deficit.”

The six provisional settlements amount to savings of £1.1bn and come on top of the £1bn savings delivered in the first phase of settlements.

Last month, George Osborne announced that seven departments had provisionally agreed to reduce budgets by up to 10 per cent as part of the 2015/16 spending round. The Chancellor is set to announce the finalised plans on June 26.

Big spenders, such has the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Defence, have yet to come to an agreement.

Chris Leslie, shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “It’s totally chaotic for the Government to be conducting spending negotiations in public this way, with big departments like defence and work and pensions yet to reach agreement.

“This spending review must finally act to get our economy moving with a long-term plan for jobs and growth, as Labour and the IMF have urged. ”