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The Tories are still savaging departmental budgets – and we're all paying the price

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In the build up to budget there have been calls for increased funding from a number of areas of the public sector. 

These are important and valid points. Proper funding for housing, health and social care are all vital.

Today we published figures indicating the economic costs of the public sector pay cap for regions and constituencies across England, and yesterday my colleague Geoff Tily discussed various ways that public spending could be increased. On the eve of the budget, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on just how far we’ve fallen.

The chart below shows what’s happened to departmental spending per head since the crash.  Resource departmental expenditure limits (RDEL) are the funds that government departments, and the services they oversee, have to conduct their day to day work.

In government accounts they are separated out from capital expenditure limits – which are funds they have to spend on items that will generate a return at some point in the future. Crudely, building a hospital is capital spend, paying porters, nurses and doctors is resource spend. Capital spending is vital, but resource spending is what actually delivers the services we all rely on.

It doesn’t tell a very pretty story. Departmental spending per head peaked in 2008-09. Then fell precipitously. It's forecast to fall to 17 per cent off the 08-09 peak by 2021/22. That’s a loss of almost a fifth of the spending on the public sector, with no sign of an improvement any time soon.

Tomorrow we may see the Chancellor bow to the political pressure – and clear evidence of harm – and lift the restrictions on public sector pay, for at least some.

If we do, then it's important to remember the context when judging the offer. While some departments may get more or less here and there, overall spending has been savaged by Conservative led governments. And left unchecked, they intend to continue doing so until 2022.  None of us can afford that.