October 8th, 2012
Each viable idea – called a â€˜Starterâ€™ – is given a snappy 4-5 word description â€“ a useful discipline to check whether it can be explained in one sentence â€“ and a lead official and lead minister is assigned to it.
Itâ€™s also given a number, so if Chapter 6 of the Budget is on the environment, each relevant idea is numbered Starter 601, 602, etc. With fuel duties, etc., where there are lots of different options, they are listed out as 601a, 601b, etc.
All the starters â€“ about 150-200 in total â€“ are placed in an Excel file called the Budget Scorecard. Each line contains the name and number of the starter, and the amount in revenue that it will raise or cost in each of the next 5 years, before and after inflation.
Sheet 1 of the Scorecard contains the Starters which are almost certain to proceed, Sheet 2 very likelies, Sheet 3 probables, Sheet 4 not likelies, and so on. Starters are gradually promoted to Sheet 1 over a 3-4 month process, and at the bottom of Sheet 1 â€“ constantly evolving â€“ is the Budget arithmetic, which says how much the entire package costs or raises.
No Starter ever disappears from the Scorecard. Even if it is firmly rejected early in the process, it still lurks on a distant Sheet waiting to be recalled in case the distributional analysis of Sheet 1 calls for a measure targeted at a particular income group or segment of society.
On Budget Day, Sheet 1 is literally copied and pasted as a table into the chapter of the Red Book entitled â€˜The Budget Decisionsâ€™, which is what politicians and journalists generally turn to first to see what the Chancellorâ€™s actually announced after heâ€™s announced it.