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Defence gains as cuts hit education

THE Government is cutting its overall spending on education and employment this year - in spite of "extra" money for welfare-to-work - while the defence budget is set to increase in real terms for the first time in a decade.

Detailed figures on Treasury spending plans have been released by Government departments over the last two days, with some of the most complex, and sometimes contradictory, tables it could be possible to devise.

But the calculated confusion sown by 20 different departmental reports was partly clarified yesterday by official Treasury Supply Estimates, presented to the Commons by Dawn Primarolo, Financial Secretary to the Treasury. The estimates seek parliamentary authority for expenditure of pounds 215.2bn in 1998-99, an increase of pounds 2.3bn on last year's forecast out- turn - what the Treasury believes the Government spent over the last 12 months.

While the defence estimates show an increase in spending of more than pounds 1.1bn, a rise of 5.2 per cent, to this year's pounds 23,431m budget, the rise in the front-line health budget is only 4.8 per cent, to give an overall health spend of pounds 31,858m.

While the Employment Service is getting an extra pounds 659m for the welfare- to-work programme, the education and employment budget, without welfare- to-work, has been slashed by 9 per cent to pounds 11.386bn. "Total education" spending is down from pounds 11,499m to pounds 10,141m this year.

But the report by David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment - which uses different figures - shows spending for his department is pounds 14,023m this year, compared with an estimated out-turn of pounds 14,794m.