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Governments in the UK spend billions of pounds of public money every year. Each has come up with different methods of assessing the value that they are getting from this spending.

The Public Value Framework (PVF) is one of the most recent systems intended to track value for money. It was designed by HM Treasury to evaluate whether Government departments are actually achieving what they set out to do with the various programmes that they run.

The Framework was initially designed by Sir Michael Barber, who had previously worked on similar projects under Tony Blair’s administration. After its initial publication in 2017, it underwent several changes and simplifications, and now consists of a set of 35 questions (plus sub-questions under each one) which will help to determine how well a particular programme or department is achieving its intended policy outcomes. These cover four areas: the department or programme’s goals and how it pursues them, the inputs that it uses to do so, engaging citizens and users, and developing system capacity.

Each Government department now has a published Outcome Delivery Plan, which will be updated regularly. These go into detail on each priority outcome that the department is hoping to achieve, along with the metrics that they will use to determine whether this outcome is being met. The intention is that this will help to identify areas where departments need extra support or where outcomes are under pressure.

The PVF is the latest in a long line of initiatives that various Governments have used to determine whether their policies are having the intended effect. The emphasis of these initiatives has varied – some have focused on the money being put into the programmes, some on the department’s activities, and others on the resulting effect on society.

Other organisations also look into the value for money and effect of Government programmes. Some of the best-known include the National Audit Office and various Parliamentary committees.

Other countries use a range of approaches to tracking value for money in public spending. In many cases, formal frameworks and performance metrics make up part of the formal budget process.

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