Imperial College London

UK Spending Review 2020: Imperial experts respond


Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on his way to reveal the Spending Review

Academics and researchers from across Imperial College London have provided analysis of the UK Spending Review 2020.

Academics and researchers from across Imperial College London have offered reactions and expert comment to the 2020 Spending Review, announced on Wednesday 25 November by Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

Among the announcements were a pay freeze for public sector workers, a cut to the overseas aid budget and a new £4bn “levelling up” fund for upgrading local infrastructure. 

Immediately after delivering the spending review, the Chancellor visited Imperial's Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine

Striking a balance 

Striking the right balance to protect health while saving jobs remains at the core of the Chancellor's message Dr Sankalp Chaturvedi Imperial College Business School

Dr Sankalp Chaturvedi of Imperial College Business School said: “The Government continues to underestimate the health risks of COVID and the economic risks of Brexit. They are still ignoring the potential economic shock of Brexit because the immediate health risks are higher. 
"Striking the right balance to protect health while saving jobs remains at the core of the Chancellor's message. 
"But there is still a strong need for specific guidelines for businesses and the public, on how and when the recovery will start." 

Need for a global solution 

Dr Ajay Gambhir from Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment: “The government’s commitment to enhanced infrastructure spending is to be welcomed, so long as it’s completely on climate-compatible infrastructure in line with the recent 10-point plan announced last week. But at this stage it still seems as though the government is relying on the private sector to hugely shore up its modest initial investment in this plan.    

Polluting oil refineries in Texas
Polluting oil refineries in Texas

“In addition, there’s so much evidence that the climate change challenge needs a truly global solution – every country must play its part. In light of this, the considerable reduction in overseas aid, much of which could be focused on ensuring low-carbon development and adaptation in developing countries, is a big concern. It can only weaken the UK’s significant influence in financing and building low-carbon and climate-resilient solutions abroad.” 

Holistic approach

Dr Ana MijicSenior Lecturer in Water Systems Analysis and a Co-Director of the Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation said: “Today’s spending review announcements allocates significant resources for green infrastructure projects across the UK, which is welcomed. As a Centre for systems research in Infrastructure we would like to see more holistic approach to infrastructure planning and delivery. 

Aerial view of a water treatment plant in North London
A water treatment plant in North London

"In particular, we would like to have seen more emphasis on water infrastructure and protection of water resources, crucial for long term environmental sustainability. We would also like to see more investments for technologies that support the digital transformation of the infrastructure sector and enable evidence-based decisions on infrastructure design, construction and operations.” 

Effect on staff morale

Professor Carol Propper, Imperial College Business School said: "Whilst keeping public sector wage growth down is an obvious response to the

A refuse collector at work
A refuse collector at work

large deficit the Chancellor is building up, it will not be without its costs. In particular, a large share of the public sector wage bill is spent in healthcare and education.

"The knock on effect on staff morale in services where there are already staff shortages and, further down the line on retention and recruitment, may seriously affect the quality of the service, particularly in areas where the cost of living is high and public sector wages are relatively low."

Good research opportunities

Professor Mike Lowe, Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: "The Department of Mechanical Engineering very much welcomes the announcements on the spending review. Our departmental strategy for research has a strong theme of carbon reduction, net zero, batteries, and energy generation and management, which fit very well to the topics of planned increases in spending. We anticipate good research opportunities and to be able to contribute strongly to these objectives for the country."


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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