Community Links

early action

Classifying Spending

Public policy is shaped by what can be counted.
Classifying Spending

We have tried to find ways to classify and measure early action spending so we can track shifts over time and allow decision makers and budget holders to make informed decisions about their budgets. 

1) Classifying Early Action Spend for Funders
We worked with 8 major funders to classify their grant-making from early to late action. This short paper describes the process to allow others to undertake the exercise themselves, and draws out lessons for funders. It will be used by the new Early Action Funders Alliance after its launch in June.

2) Classifying early action spend 

In 2012 Community Links produced this short paper on classifying expenditure along a spectrum from early to late. 

It suggests that up to 40% of public spending could be on late or acute interventions, with around 20% focussed on early action. However the methodology is exploratory and our main recommendation is that the Office for National Statistics take on the challenge of developing robust classifications which can be applied across the public sector, guiding decision making. 

We apply a similar metholody directly to Community Links' own budget and work in this short seprarate paper, and explain more about the need for this work in our second report The Deciding Time:

"Public policy is shaped by what can be counted. In The Triple Dividend we described the process which led to the significant increase in preventative spend in Scotland. Influential evidence cited by Scotland’s Futures Forum showed that as much as 40% to 45% of government spending was ‘negative’ - short term spending to address pre existing social problems (Scottish Parliament Finance Committee, 2011).

"We have referenced this many times in local and national conversations over the last eight months and noted three things. First how little is currently understood about the balance of spending across the spectrum from preventative to acute services. Most officials, many managing large and sophisticated budgets, won’t even hazard a guess about the balance in their own service. Second how many are struck by this gap in their knowledge realising that, no matter how certain the destination you can’t plan a route without knowing where you’re starting from. Third, without robust information rhetoric can overtake reality, as vocal and probably genuine enthusiasm for early action, or the lure of one particularly high profile project, cloaks a meagre or nonexistent shift in resource (often even a slide in the wrong direction).

"This is the case in town halls, police and health authorities across the country as much as in Whitehall and even charities, those among the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for early action, struggle to identify how early their money is spent.

"Ten Year Spending Plans and the Ten Year Test (applied not just in Whitehall but across the sectors) are only viable if we are able to fill these gaps in our knowledge. Similarly without this kind of information the treatment of early action spending as an investment will be largely pointless."