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Back to the future: lessons from 2010

23 Nov 2015

In preparation for Wednesday’s Spending Review, Martin Turner takes a look through the CaSE archives to see how things unfolded in 2010

In preparation for Wednesday’s Spending Review, I’ve been digging through the CaSE archives to see how things unfolded back in 2010 (when I was just a young PhD student almost oblivious to the mechanisations of Whitehall’s spending decisions).

I’ve come across a helpful CaSE submission to the Science & Technology Committee’s 2011 inquiry on the impact of the Spending Review. I recommend giving it a read. It shows how the full details of the 2010 Review slowly emerged over the weeks and months following the Chancellor’s speech.

On Wednesday, we are likely to get only the top-line figures and key announcements. We will be told the budget for each department for (probably) the next five years. That will give us the scale of the cuts but we are unlikely to know what programme budgets – Further Education, railway electrification, etc – will be affected. (We might get hints though.)

We can expect to be told the total value of the Science Budget, and whether it has been ring-fenced, but we probably won’t know what it will cover exactly. There has been a lot of talk about “tucking in”, where different organisations’ funding is included in the Science Budget that wasn’t previously. This happened in 2010 and meant the ring-fenced budget was forced to stretch further.

As the S&T submission explains, we only learned specific Research Council allocations and other details of the Science Budget later in 2010 and in early 2011. This time we can expect the same delay, and it could be further confused by the rumoured reorganisation of the Councils (possibly in line with the recommendations of the Nurse Review).

So what we hear from George Osborne on Wednesday will give us an indication of how much money the science and engineering community will be getting over the next five years. But it will likely create more questions than it answers.

We’ll be analysing the announcements on Wednesday and responding to the headline figures. But keep an eye on our website over the following weeks as we digest the Spending Review and find more out from other sources.