Cuts Watch #101 (updated): FCO programme cuts – the big loser is scholarships
Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced some initial cuts in the FCO budget (but so far only in the programmes it runs – a very small part of the FCO budget compared with staffing, embassies and high commissions). Out of the £140m programmes budget, he plans to cut £18m (12-13%), but different areas will suffer disproportionate cuts. And the big loser will be overseas scholarships.
UPDATE – I now have the figures for current expenditure on many of the programmes mentioned below, and have built them into the text (showing what’s updated). In proportional terms, the biggest cut is in programmes on drugs and crime programmes, cut in half, but the much larger scholarship programme is being cut by 40% which is probably the most important cut. Low carbon growth programmes are ‘only’ being cut by 17%, so not as big a loser as I first thought.
It’s difficult to work out exactly what the impact will be because in most cases the official statement in Hansard does not show what proportion of expenditure is being cut (UPDATE: the comparisons are now shown below). Support for programme expenditure on overseas territories; counter-proliferation; human rights and diplomacy; reuniting Europe; and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy will all be cut by 10% across the board – again, that makes it difficult to work out yet exactly what won’t be done any more. But in other cases, a simple figure for cuts is given (and the sums spent last year are not in the statement or on the FCO website which makes the impact unclear). So, spending on the low-carbon high-growth programme will fall by £3m (UPDATE: compared with last year’s expenditure of £17.36m, so a cut of 17%), on drugs and crime programmes by £1m (UPDATE: down by 50% from £2m), and on public diplomacy programmes a further £1m (UPDATE: down from £4.3m, a cut of 23%) . The really big loser will be overseas scholarships which will be cut by £10m, reducing our ability to train people from developing/Commonwealth countries and benefit from the loyalty that education brings, although that’s not a 100% cut – some scholarships will remain. (UPDATE: overseas scholarship expenditure is being cut from £25.6m to £15.6m, so about 40%.)
These are only programmes, of course, so it doesn’t mean the FCO will stop working on climate change or drugs and crime (indeed, spending on Afghan counter-narcotics programmes won’t be cut at all), but it does mean there will be fewer projects and less spending on such important areas. The overall budget of £2.2bn will be cut this year by £55m (the FCO was widely felt to have already taken stiff medicine under Labour), and some parts of the budget can’t be cut, such as subscriptions to international bodies which take up £177m of the overall budget. So there are £37m more cuts to come, and many more details about the impact of all the programme spending cuts.