In the UK, when the Government has to respond to an ongoing situation such as the current cost-of-living crisis, there is an assumption that the Opposition will also be taking action. Headlines like this in the telegraph are common in my experience.

Sir Keir Starmer ‘missing’ over cost of living crisis

While this is happening the Government is also responsible for bringing forward plans and taking action.

"My message to families today is: we will have those options ready to go," Mr Zahawi said.

What I'd like to understand is what resources are available to the different parties in order to make these plans? Does the government have the whole civil service on-call to investigate options? Does the opposition have any capacity made available to them? Do both just work inside party political structure, keeping everything in house until given to the permanent civil service to execute?

1 Answer 1


The government may draw up and execute policy plans with the aid of civil servants, who may give advice but remain politically neutral, as well as 'SpAds', special advisers who are political appointees who serve as temporary civil servants. These are all paid for by government funds.

Normally, members of the civil service do not meet with opposition MPs, except in the run-up to a general election when access talks take place to facilitate a smooth transition of power. Opposition parties may hire their own policy advisers, paid for out of their own party funds and Short Money.

Parliamentary business undertaken by opposition parties, which includes "research associated with front bench duties, developing and communicating alternative policies to those of the Government of the day, and shadowing the Government's front bench" is funded by Short Money, allocated proportionately based on seat-count and vote-share at the last election. For the April '22 - March '23 period, for example, the Labour Party was allocated £6.8 million, while the SNP was allocated £1.1 million (not including travel budget).

This allocation of funds may be used to hire policy advisers, and a breakdown of the number of staff in each salary band for each opposition party for 2020-21 is available on the parliament.uk website.

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