09 April 1998
Answers on site for BCMS don’t satisfy
FARM minister Jack Cunninghams answers to questions about the decision to site the British Cattle Movement Service headquarters at Workington, Cumbria, have done nothing to appease the concerns of opposition MPs.
Shadow farm minister Michael Jack said cheaper options had been dropped in favour of the Workington site, which created 260 jobs only a few miles from Dr Cunninghams Copeland constituency.
Mr Jack tabled a series of questions on the decision to select Workington. In his reply, Dr Cunningham admitted the decision was made before a cost analysis was conducted for alternative sites at Guildford and Manchester.
In the eventual cost analysis, the £1.3 million set-up costs for Workington were £0.5m – £0.7m higher than costs for the two alternatives, said Mr Jack.
And he added that the initial costs for Workington had now risen to £3.5m, plus £6.5m for database development costs.
“However, I was told that lower running costs of Workington made it more cost-effective. But if that is the basis for the decision, surely a system run by the private sector could have undercut the £20m running costs predicted for Workington,” Mr Jack said.
Computer executive for the Holstein Friesian Society, Steve Cornock, confirmed that it could have been possible to undercut the Workington costs. He explained that a consortium, led by National Milk records and the Holstein Friesian Society, prepared a bid to run the service, believing government would put it out to tender.
The consortium estimated establishment costs of about £4.5m and charges of £3.50 a beast. MAFFs costings, before deciding to cover the first years running costs, would have meant a £5-£10 producer charge for every cattle passport issued.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 10-16 April, 1998