NEWS28 February 2011

FoI request finds £9m in research cuts across four government departments

Government UK

UK— Four government departments cut almost £9m of research and statistical data collection spend in the months following the general election last May, a Freedom of Information request has found.

Simon Tanner, owner of Research as Evidence, asked the Departments of Communities and Local Government; Business Innovations and Skills; Education; and Work and Pensions to divulge which projects had been cancelled as of December.

Education wielded the biggest axe with more than £7.4m of projects cancelled – 13 in total – including the Evaluation of Academies, the TellUs survey and the Survey of Disabled Children’s Services indicator, according to a report prepared by Tanner and published on the Radical Statistics blog.

Work and Pensions cut £321,000 of projects, six in all, while Communities and Local Government cancelled 15 but did not provide figures on their value.

A further 26 projects across the four departments were curtailed before completion, Tanner found. Work and Pensions stopped six projects worth a total of £3.3m having only spent £612,000 on them as of December.

Tanner believes that curtailed research presents “a more serious issue” than cancelled research. “Projects curtailed for non-methodological reasons could equate to wasted funds, making results unusable or unpublishable,” he said.

The £8.9m in cuts Tanner has uncovered equate to 13.5% of spend across all four departments, based on published departmental resource accounts.

Significant though the figures are, they are probably only a fraction of total cuts to research and data collection spend across a government of 50 separate departments, whose leaders are looking to cut government expenditure by £83bn by 2014-15.

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