Spending Review: The known unknowns

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Image caption,
Police chiefs have warned it will be impossible to maintain levels of police presence

Chancellor George Osborne's Spending Review has set out £81bn cuts to be made by 2014-15, but it will be weeks and months before we get a better picture of how these savings will be made.

So what are the "known unknowns"?

Public Sector Pensions

What we know: There will be an increase in the contributions which public sector workers will have to make to their pensions funds.

What we do not know: While the average increase is expected to be 3%, individual employees do not know how much they will be expected to pay in.

The only guidance from Mr Osborne has been that increases would be "staggered and progressive", with the lowest paid and members of the armed forces being protected.

But those who gained the highest pensions from final-salary schemes should be expected to pay the most, Mr Osborne added.

Public sector workers are already in the middle of a two-year pay freeze, meaning higher contributions will increase the burden on take home pay, experts warn.

Local Government

What we know: Councils will see a 7.1% annual fall in their budgets. These will be met, broadly, by a loss of jobs and cuts to services

What we don't know: Individual councils have not yet decided how they will make the budget cuts.

The Local Government Association estimates that 100,000 jobs will go across England and Wales, but which jobs will be lost is yet to be decided.

The association warned that while some jobs would go in natural wastage - not filling vacancies and voluntary redundancy - "there will be job losses where real people dedicated in their profession won't be there any more".

In terms of services, councils and unions have warned we should expect to lose libraries and swimming pools, have less regular bin collections and fewer public transport services.


What we know: The Home Office faces a 23% cut in current spending over the period. The police will take a share of this hit.

What we don't know: We still have not been told how many "bobbies on the beat" will disappear.

The government says police cuts will focus on bureaucracy, but police chiefs have warned that there was no way such cuts could be made without affecting manpower.


What we know: The Justice Department budget is to fall by 6% a year, equivalent to 23% over the period.

What we don't know: Plans for a new 1,500-place prison will be dropped, but the government has not confirmed which project will not go ahead.

Equitable Life

What we know: Some 1.5 million policyholders with Equitable Life will receive a share of a total of £1.5bn in compensation.

Those who were hardest hit because they had already started taking their pensions through "with-profits" annuities will benefit the most.

What we don't know: How the compensation will be distributed has yet to be decided. More details will be announced in January

Foreign Office

What do we know: There'll be a 24% cut in funding over four years - with a reduction in Whitehall-based diplomats being a priority. As part of the settlement, the BBC will take over the funding of the World Service from 2014.

What we don't know: We have not been told where UK representation overseas will be scaled back. The impact on BBC World Service, both in terms of job losses and in terms of its commitment to foreign language services is not known.