‘Assiduous’ efforts being made to balance budget, says Swinney

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Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said “assiduous” efforts are being made to close the £100 million hole in the government’s budget, with some minor spending pledges potentially being delayed.

Mr Swinney told MSPs last week that the budget is yet to be balanced, saying during the stage one debate on next year’s spending pledges that he was still “wrestling” with the overspend.

Appearing before the Finance and Public Administration Committee on Tuesday, he said: “I assure the committee, as I’ve done in writing, of the very assiduous efforts that are going on to (balance the budget).

“Every effort will be made to ensure that is the case before the end of the financial year.”

The Deputy First Minister said “very rigorous scrutiny” was being applied to new spending, which can include the requirement for his personal approval.

John Swinney
Mr Swinney said some minor projects may have to be delayed, without offering specifics (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“At this stage in the financial year, they’ll tend to be more minor aspects of public spending programmes that will be coming forward,” he said.

“We will look to take this forward as early as we possible can do, it may be that they have to run into the next financial year to be commenced, but it will be a variety of different programmes across government.”

The Deputy First Minister also hit out at the “churn” within the UK Government in the past year, with Mr Swinney having seen four chancellors during his time in charge of the public finances in relief of Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who has been on maternity leave.

Answering a question about the fiscal framework – which is due to be re-negotiated – the Deputy First Minister said: “To be honest, I frankly would question the value of any conversation with most of the people I’ve been dealing with over the interim period which I’ve been here because of the degree of churn, if I can put it as delicately as that.”

Mr Swinney also noted there was a cabinet re-shuffle under way in No 10 as he appeared before the committee, noting “there may be more churn before the day is out”.

Although no changes were made to either the Chancellor or wider Treasury team by the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

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