11 September 2020: The UK’s highly regarded diplomatic service in the FCO was combined last week with the UK’s highly respected international development department DfID to form a new government department – the FCDO.
The newly established Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is the subject of the #icaewchartoftheweek, illustrating the amounts spent by its predecessor departments in the financial year ended 31 March 2020. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) incurred net expenditure in the order of £2,750m, while the Department for International Development (DfID) spent £10,350m, a combined total of £13.1bn.
Although DfID was the bigger department in financial terms, the FCO was larger operationally with 13,751 staff in 2019-20 (5,263 in the UK and 8,488 abroad) compared with the 3,535 employed by DfID (2,628 in the UK and 773 abroad). As a consequence, net operational spending amounted to somewhere in the region of £1,250m for the FCO, while DfID cost in the order of £350m to run.
The FCO spent approximately £700m in 2019-20 on international programmes, including grants to the British Council and the BBC World Service amongst others. The other big element of its spending of just under £800m was on conflict prevention, stability and peacekeeping.
DfID spent around £2,150m on international development programmes and organisations, policy, research and evidence and humanitarian aid and £750m on conflict, security and stabilisation. Around £3,000m was spent on economic development, while £4,100m went to regional programmes, including approximately £900m in west and southern Africa, £1,300m in east and central Africa, £850m in the Middle East and north Africa and £1,050m in Asia and elsewhere in the world.
DfID has provisionally calculated that total development spending across the UK Government, including by the FCO, DfID, Home Office, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs departments, amounted £15.2bn in total in the 2019 calendar year. This was in line with the UK Government’s legally binding commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on development. This includes a proportion of the EU’s spending on international development but excludes the UK’s contributions towards development within the EU, in particular in eastern European member states.
The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the size of the economy this year and hence the 0.7% calculation will result in a smaller amount to spend in 2020-21, hence the combined budget for the FCDO will be smaller than the amount spent in the last financial year.
The new department is abbreviated to FCDO in writing, which the Government is insisting should be spoken out loud as ‘focado’ (similar to the online grocery store), no doubt in a valiant attempt to prevent other forms of short-form pronunciations becoming popular.