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Going on a spree

Betsan Powys | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009

You've heard of a spending spree.

You've heard more than enough about a spending squeeze.

Well here's a 'spree exercise' - one we'd heard nothing about and one that's going to hurt.

This morning the First Minister revealed that for the past two years the Assembly Government has been conducting what he called a "Spree Exercise", a two year internal evaluation scheme of public sector projects. How do you spell that, mouthed one reporter? Forget how you spell it. What is it?

Mr Morgan mentioned this particular SpREE - Spending Review and Evaluation Exercise -in response to a question about how the government intends to cope with its most difficult budget round ever.

Along the way a number of "low priority" projects have been indentified which could be cut in response to the "very difficult" budgetary situation.

_39385037_trafficlights203.jpgHe talked about traffic lights, about using red, amber and green as a way of identifying which projects had been delivering, which hadn't; which were safe and which are operating under the glare of a red light that says their money is about to stop.

Would chopping the budgets of these public sector projects lead to job losses? There would, said Mr Morgan, inevitably be a "drop-off" in the number of public sector jobs in Wales, although this would in part be offset by the increase in people working for the Department for Work and Pensions dealing with the impact of the recession. Welcome to downturn swings and roundabouts.

Which projects are under threat? He wouldn't be drawn. That will be up to the Finance Minister's job when the draft budget is published this autumn.

The First MInister's not talked about this process before in his briefings but the government refer us to this statement made some years ago.

It's fair to say it was news to Nick Bourne too. The official opposition - or the "government in waiting" as he's taken to describing the Conservative group - say it's the first time he's heard it discussed like this. Mr Bourne has, as he admits himself, been asking Mr Morgan with "what some might call monotonous regularity" about the spending programme and possible cuts to come.

Still. Now we know. So just who is working for public sector programmes that are, as the First Minister puts it, "nice to have but not things you need to have?"

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