DEFRA outlines £45m budget cuts following £200million overspend

DEFRA has outlined the first wave of 2006-07 budget cuts following a £200 million overspend this year, partly blamed on bird flu precautions and the single farm payment fiasco.

In the planned £45 million cuts set out by biodiversity minister Barry Gardiner yesterday (24 October), the Environment Agency and Natural England will lose most (in terms of £ million), but British Waterways and the State Veterinary Service will also have their budgets cut by £3million or more (see table).

“The full impact of the mess caused by the Rural Payment Agency has been put into context by these figures,” said Allan Buckwell, chief economist at the Country Land and Business Association.

“The Government have suggested that the majority of the overspend is due to accountancy rule changes, yet figures from the recently published report from the National Audit Office, suggest that £177.5 million may be attributed to the RPA mess.”

Conservative agriculture spokesman Neil Parish shared Professor Buckwell’s particular concern that the SVS budget had been cut at a time when bovine TB is still a major problem and surveillance and research into bird flu is needed.

“We should be pouring resources into our State Veterinary Service, not cutting them by £3 million,” he said.

“Many British farmers have suffered needlessly because of the single farm payment crisis that DEFRA brought upon itself. Now the effects of this shambles are being felt across the country.”

He called on DEFRA to consider the “disproportionate effects” the cuts will have on rural areas and said they should not be applied equally across the country. “DEFRA needs to seek to mitigate the effects.”

The cuts include:

Natural England £12.9 million (7%)
Food From Britain £403,000 (8%)
Environment Agency £23.7 million (5%)
National Forestry Company £300,000 (8%)
Marine Fisheries Agency £1.7 million (6%)
Meat & Livestock Commission £15,000 (4%)
State Veterinary Service £3 million (3%)
British Waterways £3.9 million (7%)







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