NFU warns against Defra cuts

NFU warns against Defra cuts

The announcement by Chancellor, George Osbourne that Defra has provisionally agreed to cut its spending by an average of 30 per cent over the next four years must not impact the department’s responsibilities for driving through its food and farming strategy, animal health, flooding and its payment functions, NFU president Meurig Raymond has warned.

Chancellor, George Osbourne.

Chancellor, George Osbourne has announced that Defra has provisionally agreed to cut its spending by an average of 30 per cent over the next four years.

The Chancellor described the cuts as a way of helping the public finances back into surplus. He also added that if the Government does not control spending and reduce levels of national debt there is a risk of loss of confidence in the economy.

Defra, along with the Treasury, the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government will be expected to cut day-to-day spending over the next four years through a combination of efficiency savings and closing low value programmes.

However, NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Our priority is for farming businesses to be productive and profitable and we are concerned that cuts of up to 30 per cent could damage front line delivery services that underpin this aim. That is why we believe that Defra should first seek savings in ‘back office’ functions rather than reducing spending on areas that are key to our members, such as animal health, flood protection and a fully functioning Rural Payments system.

“The NFU also have concerns about cost recovery – if this simply means paying for the continuation of services that could be delivered more effectively and efficiently. We believe that there is scope for some services, including some provided by agencies such as the Environment Agency, to be delivered more cost-effectively by other providers.”

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