Comprehensive Spending Review 2010

12 July 2010

The Royal Society policy centre prepared an analysis of the effects of cuts in public funding for the research base in the UK, including three possible scenarios: 0%, 10% and 30% cuts in cash terms. This was submitted to Adrian Smith at the department for Business, Innovation and Skills in July 2010 at his request. 

Three months later the Chancellor announced the UK government’s decision on changes to public spending over the next four years (Comprehensive Spending Review 2010). Addressing science spending under the heading of ‘Growth’, George Osborne announced that he would maintain the science budget in cash terms, with resource spending of £4.6 billion. This is the 0% scenario, described in this document as ‘painful but manageable’.

This budget had been threatened with large cuts up until the week before the spending announcement, and so the result can be seen as a triumph for the research community.  David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science, appeared on radio on the afternoon of the spending review praising the community for their role in this good result: “The scientific community has assembled very powerful evidence, such as in that Royal Society report, The Scientific Century, about what the benefits are of scientific research...that’s really strong evidence and we deployed it.”

But this level of funding is still a cut in real terms - around 10% over four years. The protected budget includes funding from the UK’s Research Councils and funding for research allocated through higher education institutions. It no longer includes capital expenditure, which is vulnerable to much higher cuts, putting strain on the UK’s ability to maintain international subscriptions and large scale facilities. Structural changes to higher education funding for teaching - in response to the Browne review – could also impact on research. The policy centre continues to monitor developments, concentrating on the detailed budget allocations likely to come out in the new year.