GORDON BROWN‘S spending review on Monday (July 12) has been greeted as good news for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Secretary of state Margaret Beckett.

DEFRA‘s budget is set to rise from £3.2 to £3.5bn by 2007-2008.

“This settlement is good news as it will allow us to consolidate work already done and build on the ambitious goals set out in the last spending review,” Mrs Beckett said.

The department said energy efficiency and climate change policy would benefit from DEFRA‘s 1.2% real-terms increase, a sum representing £261 million per year by 2007-2008.

This, together with efficiency gains of at least £610 million in 2007/8, including £300m within local government expenditure on waste services, would allow DEFRA to move towards achieving its priorities.

The Treasury is said to have worked closely both with DEFRA and other departments throughout the spending review process to ensure that where policies impact on rural areas they address the different obstacles to delivery and needs of rural communities.

The settlement includes CAP-related spending on agriculture, and the government said it would continue to press for further agricultural policy reform and implement the Sustainable Food and Farming Strategy.

Ms Beckett said: “The settlement reflects the priority the department is giving to sustainable farming and modernising rural communities.

“With this new financial commitment DEFRA can plan ahead and invest in building a healthy, sustainable and safe future for us all.”

It is believed that DEFRA is not among the departments that will be hardest hit by the announced reductions in the number of civil servants.

A spokesperson said that DEFRA was set to lose some 500 jobs.