Departments cannot do more with less

Departments cannot do more with less

The Chancellor’s claim in the autumn statement that ‘science is a personal priority’ – on a day when the UK faces severe weather and flood warnings – simply does not hold up.

The 1.1% reduction in Whitehall departmental budgets for 2014-15 and 2015-16 is bad news for public science, with the Departments for Business and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs among those that will be affected by these cuts.

Prospect director of communications and research Sue Ferns said: “Government science-related activity is pared to the bone, with devastating cuts already under way.

“For example, England's east coast is preparing for the most serious tidal surge in 30 years and the Environment Agency expects 3,000 properties to be flooded within the next 24 hours. Yet the Agency has to lose 1,400 jobs by this time next year.

“At the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, post-mortem examinations at eight sites are to end. These sites are also losing their veterinary surveillance teams, and that’s before any new cuts hit DEFRA.

“While the detail is not yet available, we are very worried. It’s all very well providing more funding for science students, but where will the openings for graduates be if the pressure on public science carries on at the current rate?”

On public sector pay, Ferns said the Chancellor’s pilot project on pay bill control was simply tinkering round the edges. “Letting departments decide how to organise their pay bill doesn’t mean much without the funding to do it. It’s tantamount to asking them to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.

“The current pay policy is broken. Government organisations are losing their specialists because these skills are better recognised and rewarded in the private sector. That’s why Prospect is calling on the government to set up an independent review of specialist pay in the civil service.”