1 March 2002

Northumberland is critical

NORTHUMBERLAND County Council made strong criticisms about the way the foot-and-mouth crisis was handled in the county in a report published earlier this week.

The 166-page report, which followed a five-day public inquiry into foot-and-mouth in January, pointed out that Northumberland did not have an effective centre for managing the crisis until five weeks after the first outbreak. It believed that recommendations in the Duke of Northumberlands inquiry into the 1967 outbreak had not been heeded and that better management in the early stages of the 2001 crisis would have greatly improved the outcome.

The report proposed that in the event of a future disease outbreak, burial sites either on, or close to, farms where an outbreak had occurred should be identified to reduce the spread of infection. It also suggested that the 3km circles drawn around infected farms were "too wide and too rigidly applied" and that a more common sense approach should have been taken.

The report panel also advised DEFRA to remove the 21-day standstill ruling as soon as possible, unless the Royal Society inquiry concluded that it was essential for disease control. It also believed that compensation for culled stock was still outstanding to some farmers and urged the government to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

&#8226 Cumbria, the county worst hit by the foot-and-mouth epidemic, has announced that it is to hold its own public inquiry into the crisis.

The announcement was made by Cumbria County Council on Thursday (Feb 21). It follows similar inquiries held in Northumberland and Devon.

"We need to draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision-makers to account," said Cumbria County Council leader Rex Toft. &#42