Central Control and Departmental Autonomy
It has previously been argued that one important element in the Treasury's historic mission in controlling public spending is to act as a brake on its growth. The intermittent achievement of that purpose in the period from 1976 to 1993 was partly because in practice the Treasury is much less powerful and its administration of the planning and control system much more flexible than is apparent or commonly supposed. The appearance of tough, uncompromising Treasury control is belied by the much softer, accommodating practice. This chapter discusses the constitutional and practical limitations to the exercise of Treasury control, focusing on the tension between central control and departmental autonomy, with its roots in the historical continuity of the principles and practice of collective government.
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