The UK’s Ministry of Justice has said that it is not on track to massively overspend as recently asserted by the National Audit Office (NAO).
In its latest departmental overview, the NAO said that the ministry is estimated to overshoot the budget agreed on in 2015 by £1.1bn. The ministry must cut its spending by £500m, the spending monitor said.
However, a spokesperson told the Law Society Gazette that the overview is inaccurate. It does not incorporate additional funding from the Treasury since 2015, including cash provided in autumn 2016 via supplementary estimates. That year, the treasury said it would provide up to £500m of additional funds for reform programs and to recruit up to 2,500 more prison officers.
“Forecast spending this year is in line with our budget,” the spokesperson told the publication.
The ministry also said that the spending plans for 2018-19 in the departmental overview are consistent with the department’s estimates published in April. These estimates are in line with Parliament’s expectations and the budgeted spend for the fiscal year, it said.
The NAO report said that the ministry has found it challenging to manage demand and raise more revenue through charging for services, which were major considerations for the budget review in 2015.
“Much of the spending increase since 2015-16 covers spending on major reform programmes including courts, prisons and probation, which are expected to lead to significant savings,” the NAO said.