Report slams observatory job cut threat

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A POWERFUL committee of MPs today published a damning report criticising the ministers and funding body behind cuts which threaten job losses at Edinburgh's Royal Observatory.

The House of Commons science and skills committee said mismanagement of research funding had put some of Britain's most prestigious science facilities at risk.

It found ministers were largely to blame for their poor handling of the Government's science budget.

But it said the problems were then compounded by ineffective and secretive management at the newly created Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which allocates research grants.

The committee said 40 jobs were expected to be lost from 100-strong workforce at the UK's Astronomy Technology Centre, based at the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill, because of a decision to halve its budget over the next three years.

The Jodrell Bank observatory and Daresbury laboratory in Cheshire are among the other world-famous science institutions now facing an uncertain future.

Professor Keith Mason, chief executive of the STFC, was singled out for special criticism. The report said there were "serious questions" about his role and performance, "especially his ability to retain the confidence of the scientific community".

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