Foreign secretary James Cleverly has become the first secretary of state to admit departments face spending cuts, saying the Foreign Office will need to deliver to a “tighter budget”.
Concern has mounted over potential cuts after chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng stressed the need for departments to “work more efficiently” and have a “disciplined approach to spending” in his mini-budget – fuelling speculation that public services could shoulder the cost of his tax cuts.
Treasury secretary Simon Clarke has also said departments would need to look for “efficiencies” – which was interpreted by unions as a euphemism for job cuts. Speaking at a UK in a Changing Europe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Cleverly reiterated the need for “efficiency savings”, saying: “Money’s tight right across government”.
“When that money starts coming back through, I will be able to use that efficiently and well. In the meantime, we’ve got to look at ways of cutting our cloth to match our purse and delivering excellence in foreign affairs on a tighter budget,” he said.
He added: “We can squeal about that all we like. If you turn around to me and say, ‘James, would you like your budget doubled?’, I’d say yes. We could use more money efficiently and well, but the bottom line is money’s too tight to mention.”
During the event, Cleverly also addressed concern that development had been “deprioritised” during the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development two years ago.