U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May is resisting demands by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to cut her budget as he seeks savings across government departments, a person familiar with the negotiations said.
The Home Office has already suffered substantial budget reductions, including cuts in police numbers, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential. The department is arguing that Osborne should seek savings in other ministries that have not already faced such difficult choices, the person said. Efficiency measures are being examined, the person said.
May’s budget, which covers border controls as well as policing, is already scheduled to decline to 7.7 billion pounds ($12.1 billion) in the 2014-15 financial year from 8.7 billion pounds in 2011-12, according to the spending plan announced by Osborne in March. In his end-of-year financial statement in December, the chancellor announced that the Home Office’s expenditure limits would be reduced by a further 80 million pounds in 2013-14 and 155 million pounds the following year.
Osborne is seeking extra savings of 10 billion pounds in 2015-16 as he pursues the biggest fiscal squeeze since World War II, with Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling also resisting cuts. The Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partners, have repeatedly called for a focus on higher taxes for the wealthy even as spending has to be constrained.
May has resisted Treasury attempts to alter Home Office policy in the past.
Late last year, the home secretary, a Conservative like Osborne, blocked a bid by the Treasury to relax immigration rules. She was concerned the proposal to increase the number of so-called highly skilled foreign employees allowed into Britain risked a political backlash if it was included in Osborne’s end-of-year statement.
May came second to Queen Elizabeth II in a list of the 100 most powerful women in the U.K. that was published yesterday by the BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” radio program. She is one of a number of Cabinet ministers who are possible challengers to Prime Minister David Cameron as a future leader of the Conservatives. She received a round of applause yesterday when she briefed Cabinet colleagues in London on plans to root out police corruption and misconduct.
The government set out its priorities for the spending review at the time of Osborne’s autumn statement, a spokesman for the Treasury, who asked not to be identified in line with government practice, said in a telephone interview. No decision has been made about departmental budgets, he said.