The government’s arrangements for planning, budgeting, spending and monitoring involve HM Treasury, departments, and the Cabinet Office. HM Treasury allocates funding to departments through annual budgets and multi-year spending reviews. Departments use those funds to deliver programmes and their accounting officers are responsible to Parliament for ensuring the funds are spent appropriately and provide value for money for the Exchequer as a whole. The Cabinet Office, meanwhile, monitors outcomes and delivery against the government’s policy priorities.

We last reported in detail on these arrangements in Improving government’s planning and spending framework (2018). We pointed to the need for more integrated business planning, spending control and monitoring, to counteract the risks to value for money from short-termism, over-optimism and siloed decision-making. In January 2024 the head of the NAO pointed to the need to improve the planning and spending framework, in support of greater allocative efficiency and productivity.

The last spending review, in 2021, set out funding for departments to the end of 2024-25. The government has indicated that there will not be a new spending review until after the next general election. In this report we will draw out lessons from our work to show how improvements to the government’s planning and spending framework, including the approach to spending reviews, would support better value for taxpayers’ money in the long term.


This report will set out:

  • why it is important to improve the government’s planning and spending framework to safeguard long-term value for money
  • key lessons to help improve the government’s planning and spending framework, illustrated by value for money outcomes we have examined

NAO Team

Director: Simon Reason
Audit Manager: Antonia Gracie