DEFRA culls 30 organisations in department shake-up

DEFRA has announced plans to shake up more than a third of its arm’s length bodies.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said the reforms would streamline the department and cut costs to help the government reduce its budget deficit.

Mrs Spelman said many of the department’s 90 bodies were set up at a time when understanding of environmental issues was “less mainstream”.

Most of the functions those bodies performed were now part of what the government did as a matter of course, while others were no longer necessary, she said.

Under the plans DEFRA will withdraw funding from the Sustainable Development Commission and will abolish the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

As the Tories had pledged ahead of the election, the Agricultural Wages Board will be closed, while the fifteen Agricultural Wages Committees, the sixteen Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees and the Committee on Agricultural Valuation will be abolished.

The Inland Waterways Advisory Council and the Commons Commissioners have also been scrapped.

Announcing the plans on Thursday (22 July), Mrs Spelman said she was committed to making efficiency savings in light of the 33% budget cut DEFRA faces.

“The effective delivery of public services is essential and I am committed to increasing the transparency and accountability of DEFRA’s public bodies and to reducing their numbers and costs,” she said.

“Times have changed since many of these bodies were set up and much of what they do is now everyday government business.”

“We will continue to liaise closely with the Sustainable Development Commission’s partners and will work with business, civil society, local communities, universities and internationally, to help deliver sustainable development together.

“The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee will provide powerful democratic scrutiny of government’s work in this area.”

Mrs Spelman said the arm’s length body review would make DEFRA a “leaner, stronger department” with a clearer focus on its priorities and a simplified “underpinned by a robust, credible and efficient science base”.

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