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Ministers ‘asked to see if they can make 20% cuts’ to fund Covid-19 payouts

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MINISTERS have been tasked with finding significant savings in departmental budgets to help deal with the financial impact of the Covid-19 response – with one minister saying they had been asked to see if there was scope for 20% cuts.

Treasury Minister Susie Pinel Picture: ROB CURRIE. (28597392)

A government-wide efficiencies programme which is designed to deliver £100 million worth of savings over the next three years has already been agreed.

However, with the government setting aside hundreds of millions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, ministers have been asked to find where they can make further savings.

Treasury Minister Susie Pinel (pictured left) said the savings would not be across the board, but they would have to be made.

She added: ‘We will need to go back to make savings – I couldn’t say what percentage they will be for different departments.

‘We are still in the unknown, so I can’t say where it will be 20%, as things can change, and they are changing at the moment week by week.

‘I think everyone understands we are going to have to work together to get out of this situation.’

In a Scrutiny hearing earlier this week, Environment Minister John Young said all ministers had been asked to see if there was scope for 20% budget cuts.

He said: ‘All ministers have been asked to look at how we could cope with a 20% reduction in our budgeted amount, and that is something my chief officer has set in train.

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‘I am particularly concerned at the impact on the budget. We are spending very little and it is already stretched and I will take some persuading to go along with budget reductions.’

The minister said 20% across the Growth, Housing and Environment Department represented about £9 million. Details of where money could be saved have not yet been revealed.

Following the meeting, Deputy Young told the JEP he thought some of the possible cuts were unacceptable, and the move was simply ‘salami slicing’ of the public sector.

Home Affairs Minister Len Norman said everyone had been asked to look at their budgets for potential savings. However, the majority of his spending went on salaries.

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He said: ‘The vast majority of my budget is on salaries and staff costs. We are asked to look at the budgets to see what we can realistically achieve.’

And Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis said the saving did not have to be 20%, but departments had been asked to look for savings.

He added: ‘It will not necessarily be 20%. I couldn’t put a figure on it. It shouldn’t be too onerous. Officers are looking at things at the moment to try and make savings without derailing the plans we have in place.’

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