NEWS22 July 2010

‘Uncertainty’ over public sector cuts affecting research, says QA’s Bryan

Government UK

UK— The prospect of government spending cuts and uncertainty over where the axe will fall is leading to delays in commissioning research studies and to some projects being pulled, according to QA Research managing director Richard Bryan.

The boss of the public sector research specialists told Research the uncertainty had permeated all levels of goverment – local, regional and national.

“Everyone is waiting for the publication of the government spending review in October,” said Bryan. “There is a lot of uncertainty about whether stuff is going to be commissioned or cancelled, and people in the public sector are worried about their jobs.”

The Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government has set a target to reduce annual government spending by £83bn by 2014–15, and a consultation is already under way asking public sector workers and members of the public to share their ideas on where to make cuts.

Soon after taking power in May the government announced its intention to reduce its advertising spending by 50%, with an anticipated knock-on affect on advertising research – but as ICM’s Martin Boon warned at the time: “This may only be the start.” Public sector researchers, by and large, accept that research is going to take a hit in common with all other areas of government spending.

QA’s Bryan expects the next 18 months to be challenging for the public sector and for the businesses that serve it, as the new government beds in. “But I’m hopeful for two to three years’ time,” he says. The reason: research agencies have an opportunity to position themselves as part of the solution to the government spending challenge, rather than part of the problem.

Bryan points to a set of tools recently developed by his company called Mimo – an acronym for Minimum Investment Maximum Outcomes. To date the approach has been used in its work on Childcare Sufficiency Assestments, helping local authorities to identify shortcomings in their provision of childcare services and where best to target resources to most effectively improve their ‘sufficiency scores’.

With such a strong government focus on achieving value for money, Bryan sees potential for the Mimo tools to make a name for themselves in other public service areas.