Science and the Budget 2010

When I first started working in Westminster I seem to remember having to go and collect the Budget papers from HM Treasury.  These days you can download them after the Chancellow has spoken.  But such is the interest on the day, that it might still be quicker if you walk.

So, while you are waiting for that download, here are some quick thoughts on Osborne’s first budget.

Today is the second in a triple whammy of budget announcements all aimed at cutting the budget deficit.  The first, in May, set out cuts in each Government department.  Today’s set out targets for the deficit reduction and further measures in terms of tax and spend.  But the really critical announcement will be in the autumn when the Government announces the results of its Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

Today we learnt that this announcement will be on 20th October.  That means an summer period of intense activity in which Government departments will be consulting and taking evidence on what their spending priorities should be.  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is using several organisations as independent advisers in this.  For medical and health research, it is the Academy of Medical Sciences and we will be feeding into their deliberations as well as making more direct representations on issues such as dual support and the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF).  The CSR process will also be the way in which Government will reach final decisions on the future of major programmes such as the Research Capability Programme (RCP).  At the moment this is on hold although some of the pilot work it was doing continues.

A few interesting things I noticed today in my quick scan of the 110 page Budget document:

An expectation that Departments will cut their expenditure by 25% and not 20% over the next four years.

The launch of a public engagement exercise on 24th June in which people will be invited to submit their ideas on spending etc

The decision not to eat further into public infrastructure investment (as recession-hit Governments are wont to do) and a pledge to publish a national infrastructure plan, looks a good move to ensure long-term continuity and stability for investment in our infrastucture.  It also seems very much in line with the previous announcements the Government has made about things like UKCMRI.

One or two passages in the document that signal a much tougher line on new regulations and the overall regulatory framework.  We know this already.  But I was interested that it made specifc reference to working with EU countries on better costing of EU regulations.  This could be very helpful in terms of the impending revision of the EU Clinical Trials Directive.

A review of intellectual property taxation, tax credits for innovation and the like.

A further pledge to explore reform of Gift Aid.  Government seems to have been exploring this one forever.

One quick aside is that I noticed yesterday the Department of Health announced some changes to it’s Operating Framework for 2011 including some interesting additional markers of performance such as increased public engagement and better use of the secondary uses service by PCTs.  Did anyone else notice this?

Sorry I can’t give you a more in-depth economic analysis on the Budget like the Institute for Fiscal Studies does.  Perhaps that is why I was only sent to get the Budget bundle all those years ago.

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