DEFRA spends more on consultants than on environment strategy

DEFRA HAS spent more than £483m on consultants in the past three years, according to the department’s own figures.

The information was released in an answer to a parliamentary question by Andrew George MP, the Lib Dems’ former agriculture spokesman.

The figures show that in the past financial year DEFRA spent almost £180m on “consultancy and professional services” – more than on its environment strategy (£165m) or on animal welfare (£63m), disease prevention (£65m) and forestry (£125m).

The spending on private consultants has risen by £35m, or nearly 25%, in the past two years.

The Lib Dems say it took DEFRA officials over six months to deposit these figures in the House of Commons Library.

Norman Baker, the Lib Dems’ shadow environment secretary, commented: “These figures will come as no surprise to farmers, fishermen or environmentalists. DEFRA ministers always insist they are prepared to listen, and now we know who they’ve been listening to.

“With many British farmers struggling to make ends meet and environmental projects crying out for funding, why is the government throwing so much money at private consultants when it has its own civil servants and independent experts queuing up to give free advice?” Mr Baker asked.

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