Still a long way to go if Osborne is to meet cuts target

George Osborne talks to workers at The Port Of Liverpool today. Credit: PA

George Osborne says he is 20% of the way there. But this is a long race and - from my limited experience of any kind of race at all - the first fifth is usually the easiest.

The Chancellor wants to find £11.5 billion of cuts for the 2015-16 spending review. The detail will be announced at the end of June.

Today he announced that seven departments had agreed cuts of up to 10% of their budgets; on average the government needs to cut 8% per department. So that should put him ahead of the game, right?

Well the seven are Justice, Communities, Foreign Office, Energy, Northern Ireland Office, Cabinet Office and, as Mr Osborne might expect, the Treasury. Communities aside, these are not the last of the big spenders.

The DWP is the biggest by far but the Lib Dems won't allow anymore Welfare cuts and the PM won't allow pensioners to be hit. Second and third biggest are Health and Education.

Both of them have the largest part of their budget 'ringfenced' (NHS and schools).

So that leaves the rest to come up with some pretty substantial savings that they aren't very happy with. The 'National Union of Ministers' will be getting their placards ready.