“We’ve seen 40% cuts to the prison and criminal justice system.”
Rachel Shabi, 6 February 2020
The journalist Rachel Shabi claimed during a Question Time debate on the release of terrorism offenders that the justice budget had fallen by 40%. When we contacted her, she said this referred to the government’s widely reported plans in the 2015 spending review, which would have given the Ministry of Justice a budget in 2019-20 that was 40% smaller, in real terms, than in 2010-11. The figure was still being used by the Guardian and the Law Gazette this month.
However that 40% fall never happened. The Treasury gave the department £1.18bn more than planned for 2018/19, then £1.33bn more for 2019/20. In particular, the money was intended to meet a shortfall in probate income (generated from estates of the deceased), and to fund demand for legal aid that remained higher than the government anticipated.
The House of Commons Library also said: “There have also been significant operational challenges within the prison service, and additional funding has also been provided for court reform.”
This means that the revised budget of the Ministry of Justice in 2019-20 is in fact about 25% lower in real terms (i.e. after adjusting for inflation) than it was in 2010-11. The government also plans to spend more on justice in the 2020-21 budget than in 2019-20.