The Government must ask the House of Commons for the public money they want to spend. The estimates cycle is the annual process by which they do this. Estimates are documents setting out each department’s annual spending for approval. You can get copies on Parliament’s website or from the Vote Office. They are approved on estimates days.
The main steps in the estimates cycle are:
- Votes on account are published in February and usually approved in March, ahead of the financial year starting in April. These enable the Government to obtain an advance on the money they need for the financial year.
- Main estimates, sometimes referred to as supply estimates, are usuaully published in April and approved in July. These set out each department’s proposed annual spending.
- Supplementary estimates are presented the following February and approved in Februray or March. These enable consideration and approval of any increases in money required by departments.