Any cuts to the Defra budget must not impact the department’s responsibilities for driving through its food and farming strategy, animal health, flooding or its payment functions, NFU President Meurig Raymond has warned.
Chancellor George Osborne has announced that four Government departments, including Defra, have provisionally agreed to cut their spending by an average of 30 per cent over the next four years. Mr Osborne said 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.
It’s understood the departments 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.
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.
“We will now be looking to meet with Ministers and officials as soon as possible to understand how this announcement will impact farmers and growers.”