George Osborne yesterday set the date for completion of the 2015-16 spending review as 26 June. But it is hard to see how an agreement between the Treasury and the un-protected spending departments will be reached in the next 105 days.
The Tory branch of the National Union of Ministers want the welfare settlement reopened before their budgets are cut further. For their part, the Liberal Democrats remain resolutely opposed to more welfare reductions.
But I understand that the departing head of the Number 10 policy unit Paul Kirby has drawn up an alternative spending review plan which would break this log-jam. As I say in tomorrow’s Spectator, rather than simply looking at departmental budgets for savings, it looks at how the government could raise money by moving things into the private sector.
These privatisations would generate revenue; mitigating the need for deep reductions in the Home Office and Ministry of Defence budgets. This alternative spending review appeals to key figures in Number 10 who are seized with the importance of not going into the next election committed to cutting those Tory staples, the police and the armed forces.