The review's objectives were announced in a parliamentary answer by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Alistair Darling.1 It will, he said, "be truly comprehensive, embracing all items of public expenditure. It will also be focused on the long term, looking at the shape of public spending to the end of the century and beyond."
Mr Darling went on: "Ministers have agreed that they will examine each and every item in his or her Department to consider whether it meets the public interest, whether it contributes to the achievement of the Government's objectives, and whether there is scope for improving efficiency and effectiveness."
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) is to carry out six reviews, including two - on countryside and rural policy and on housing - in conjunction with other Departments. They are to be completed by next March, although "emerging findings" of most reviews will be reported to the Cabinet's Public Expenditure Committee in the autumn.
Announcing the terms of reference for the DETR's reviews, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: "In particular, they will consider how far we are meeting the aims of enhancing opportunity, fairness and sustainable development, while promoting employment and investment for sound economic growth. In addition we will want to consider the efficiency with which each programme is operated and the value for money that is provided to the taxpayer."
The terms of the DETR's reviews are:
Specific issues to be addressed in the review are:
The review will determine the objectives of transport policy, test the case for different forms of Government intervention in delivering an integrated transport policy, and explore ways of delivering such a policy at minimum public spending cost and maximum net benefits to society.
A key issue will be to assess the role of trunk roads in an integrated transport policy, "bearing in mind, in particular, the forecast growth in congestion," and to develop a programme for the trunk road network. The review will also explore ways of attracting passengers and freight to the railways, and the potential for reducing the environmental impacts of freight transport.
The roles of local and central government in developing local transport programmes will also be reviewed, along with the use of congestion charges, parking controls and other ways of managing traffic demand. Options for promoting bus use will be explored, including changes to the current regulatory regime for buses.
A major issue inherited from the previous Government is the rate of urbanisation of the countryside. The review will consider planning policies for "accommodating household formation", taking into account of impacts on public spending and regeneration, the economic costs and benefits of present planning controls, and any potential for the Government to influence the rate of household growth.