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DWP Expenditure Update

Ah, all now becomes clear.  The FOI information for last year's expenditure (see story of 17 November) comes in advance of the publication of monthly expenditure over £25,000 by government departments.   DWP along with other departments have released month by month expenditure from 12 May 2010 and will now go on to publish this monthly in an attempt to make government more transparent.  

There is a lot of expenditure that departments haven't included so you don't get the full picture at all.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and is guaranteed to add fuel to the fire of many people who are disgruntled about something.  They then start a campaign based on part of a story, part of the data, which isn't really a good place to start.  So is the release of part of the picture really that helpful?

Will this really have the desired effect of government departments being more careful about what they spend?  How can we question expenditure when we don't know how many staff departments employ, what role they are filling, what the running cost of every building are, how much is being diluted down a long supply chain, what exact service or supply is being purchased to work out if they've got the best deal etc?  There are so many questions that aren't answered that no one can make any informed judgements based on the information provided.  

Take the initial view of DWP's September expenditure.  They spent £444m in September (purely on items over £25k) - that doesn't include staff costs or benefit costs.  That's just the cost of delivering the service.  Most people will flinch at that level of expenditure and question whether it is really necessary.  Take for example a few of the items:

  • £91k to Eden Springs (bottled water company)!
  • £155k on conference and meetings
  • £140m on ES Programmes overall
  • £47m on Housing Benefits
  • £11m to the Pension Protection Fund
  • Over £1m on postage - scary!
  • £276k to The Big Word Interpreting Service
  • £242k to Ofsted

But you also have to ask what the knock on impact of drastically cutting expenditure could be.  The conundrum is that there are people at the end of the chain whose jobs rely on providing goods and services.  Cut expenditure willy nilly and with an un-informed hatchet and lots of people are on the losing end joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Well see for yourself.  You can download our spreadsheet for DWP's September expenditure which provides some basic summaries or download your own data from DWP's website and lose the next three hours of your life by clicking here.  You'll also find an explanatory note about types and areas of expenditure.

Happy analysing!

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