CPS spending set to outstrip budget

Government spending on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 1998-99 is “almost certain” to greatly exceed the planned expenditure announced last week, according to CPS sources.

The Lord Chancellor's Department's annual report released last week cuts the Crown prosecutions and legal services budget from £75m in 1997-98 to £61m in the coming year.

But the CPS said proposed spending was a severe underestimate. It said: “The baseline estimates of spending on prosecutions were made by the last government back in 1995-1996 and the new government has chosen not to revise them. But during 1996 prosecution costs rose sharply, largely due to an increase in the complexity of cases. The government has, accordingly, underestimated the figures by about £12m for the last two years.”

The CPS is confident more funds will be made available if needed. Further savings on administration, where spending is down from £225m last year to £221m this year, are envisaged as the CPS continues to shed jobs more than 100 staff are expected to go next year.