Bond accuses government of hiding details about cut to aid spending

24 Feb 2021 News

Bond has accused the government of trying to hide “basic but critical” details of cuts to international aid spending.

The government has already announced plans to reduce overseas development aid by £2.9bn, but has not said where these cuts will fall.

Last year, the UK government worked with charities, private companies and UN agencies to spend £7.7bn on aid programmes overseas.

Concerns about 'commercial interests'

Bond, which is a representative body for international development charities, said that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had refused to answer a recent freedom of information (FoI) request, which asked for details about which programmes will be affected by the cuts.

The government confirmed that it held the information, but said that it would not disclose any details.

It told Bond that the details requested were exempt from FoI rules, but the charity said that this explanation is “fundamentally flawed” because the exemption relates to aid spending which has already taken place and not proposed spending plans.

The FoI response also said that disclosing details “could have a damaging effect of FCDO’s business reputation and confidence which suppliers and partners” and may “undermine FCDO’s commercial interests”.

Bond: Request was 'rejected on spurious grounds'

Simon Starling, director of policy, advocacy and research at Bond, said: “Having to use a freedom of information request to get such basic but critical information about where these cuts to humanitarian and development programmes have landed is unfathomable. 

“The fact that it has now been rejected on spurious grounds will make people wonder what the government is trying to hide.

“NGOs have been pushing for this information to be disclosed because these cuts will have a real impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.

“The additional planned reduction to 0.5% gross national income will be devastating and could result in 5.3 million fewer children a year being vaccinated from harmful diseases.”   

Starling added that, at a time when the government was claiming to offer global leadership, the cuts risked “dismantling the very foundations it claims to be building on”.


This is the latest in a long line of clashes between the government and aid charities.

Bond has previously criticised ministers of making decisions about the future of international development "behind closed doors", without consultation with independent experts.

Government programmes to help aid charities during the coronavirus crisis have also hit problems. One development professional said in June that the main financial support system for charities had struggled because it was "bureaucratic sludge"

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