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How did the MoJ spend its £13bn budget?
National Audit Office report shows exactly how the MoJ spent its £13bn budget.

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Facts & Figures

Today (9 February 2024), the National Audit Office, our independent public spending watchdog, published its departmental overview for the Ministry of Justice in the financial year 2022/23. The report summarises the key information and insights that can be gained from analysing official data with a focus on how the MoJ spent its £13bn budget and risks for the department to manage in the near future.


The Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ’s) total expenditure in 2021-22 was £12.4 billion. It generated income of £1.6 billion, reducing the overall cost to the taxpayer to £10.8 billion. HM Prison and Probation services net day-to-day expenditure accounts for 47% of the MOJ’s expenditure with HM Courts and Tribunal Service the second largest area. The next largest area of net expenditure is Legal Aid , followed by policy, corporate services and associated offices expenditure which is spending by the MOJ on its core function including staff, rent, rates and utilities. This core function receives income from a combination of fees including courts processing divorce or probate claims, fines and recoveries from other government departments.

I have reproduced the spending chart from the report below but noteworthy areas of expense are:

  • Prisons – £3.341bn
  • Courts – £2.327bn
  • Legal Aid – £1.916bn
  • Probation – £1.234 bn
  • MoJ costs – £1.161
  • Youth Custody – £166m
  • YJB – £102m
  • Parole Board – £23m


The largest area of the MoJ’s expenditure is related to people costs (£5,205 million, or 43% of total costs). People costs include wages and salaries, social security costs, pension costs, early departure costs and the net cost of secondments. Interestingly Private Finance Initiative Service Charges (which I think is basically the interest on money borrowed for private prisons) was £704m.

The MoJ’s capital budget reflects the Government’s commitment to build 20,000 additional prison places. The MoJ’s capital budget has increased by 70% for 2023-24 (£2,308 million) compared to its outturn in 2022-23 (£1,360 million).

Major projects and programmes

This is an area where the NAO’s scrutiny is particularly valuable with the MoJ regularly criticised for poor implementation of such projects as electronic monitoring and digital court systems. 

The whole-life cost of the MoJ group’s 27 projects and programmes is a pretty staggering £82.5 billion. Of these, 13 are transformation and service delivery projects/programmes, eight are infrastructure and construction projects/programmes, and six are information and communications technology projects.

Transformation and service delivery projects/programmes include: the court reform programme, the electronic monitoring expansion programme and the youth justice reform programme.

Infrastructure and construction projects/programmes are focussed on expanding the number of prison places through building new prisons, refurbishment and expansion of existing places, and rapid deployment cells.

Information and communications technology projects/programmes include: prison technology transformation and the re-procurement of voice and video technology.

Only six of the projects or programmes have a delivery confidence assessment rating of ‘green’, with 19 rated ‘amber’ and one ‘red’. Main risks to delivery include inflationary pressures to the construction projects, recruitment and procurement difficulties, challenging timetables, and the complex nature of some of the transformation projects/programmes.

Supply and demand

The NAO neatly summarises the main pressures on the prison, probation and court systems in one short paragraph:

“There is a growing discrepancy between demand for criminal justice services, primarily created by the police, who make arrests and charging decisions, and the supply of services, primarily provided by HMCTS, which administers cases through the courts, and HMPPS, which manages those in custody and supervised in the community.”

It then provides details on the poor performance of prisons, probation & courts; detailing overcrowding, understaffing and growing court backlogs. 


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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