The science budget next year will be almost Pounds 30 million lower in real terms than this year as the government keeps to Conservative spending levels.
The budget for 1998-99 is Pounds 1,338 million, in line with plans laid down in January 1997. This is just Pounds 8 million, or 0.6 per cent, higher than the 1997-98 budget despite Treasury inflation assumptions of 2.75 per cent. It amounts to a 2.1 per cent cut in real terms.
The government is waiting until the comprehensive spending review is complete before changing departmental budgets. John Mulvey of Save British Science said the drop could have a serious effect on the ability of research councils to commission research projects and studentships. Ken Pounds, chief executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, said it left his council's financial position "extremely tight".
A strong pound has meant that allocations to reserves for international projects such as the European Space Agency have dropped from Pounds 8.8 million this year to Pounds 3.02 million in 1998-99. Part of the considerable saving has been taken up by spending on pensions of Pounds 12.3 million rather than the Pounds 9.5 million predicted. The Joint Research Equipment initiative has also got Pounds 4.1 million extra.