Sunday, 29 November 2015 16:16

Defra faces 15% budget reduction

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Defra faces 15% budget reduction

Defra has seen its budget reduced by 15% as part of the government's spending review.

Chancellor George Osborne delivered his 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement on Wednesday (25 November).

In it, he set out the government's four-year plan to "fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy".

Defra has been told it must make efficiency savings of 15% in real terms by 2019-20.

The savings must be delivered through efficiencies within the department and across its network of agencies and other bodies.

An ambitious efficiencies programme would see Defra become a more streamlined, digital department through it said the government.

It wouid sharing back office functions like IT, human resources and finance with its network bodies to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

At the same time, it would devolve roles to the local frontline to ensure effective service delivery.

In doing so, Defra would reduce its administration budgets by 26% by 2019?20, saving £123m.

Some areas of funding are protected for the duration of the spending review period.

They include flood defence funding, which includes the £2.3bn six-year capital investment programme to better protect over 300,000 homes.

Defra will work with the Environment Agency to generate 10% efficiencies by 2019-20. All savings will reinvested to protect another 4,000 homes.

More than £350m in funding for public forests, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, will also be protected.

National Parks will be given legal flexibilities to allow them to build sustainable, long-term revenue streams and boost growth in rural areas.

The government will invest £3 billion to enhance England's countryside through the Common Agricultural Policy and funding for public forests will be safeguarded.

Some 11m trees planted during the current parliament.

Defra has been told to prioritise spending on animal and plant disease prevention. Some £130m in capital funding will be invested in Defra's science estates by 2020-21.

Defra secretary Elizabeth Truss said: "With today's settlement we can now plan for the future.

"This strong funding settlement means we can press ahead with our vital work,"

Ms Truss said the spending review would protect the country from floods and animal and plant disease and protect the natural landscape.

It would also deliver on the government's commitments for a cleaner, healthier environment which benefited people and the economy.

"Everyone has a part to play in eliminating the deficit by 2020," said Ms Truss.

"Through its ambitious programme of efficiencies, Defra will go further to become a more modern organisation, streamlining services and doing things more strategically."

Defra would continue to invest in implementing its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis, said Ms Truss.

It would also continue to reduce costly bureaucracy and red tape, securing net savings to business of £470m by the end of the Parliament.

As part of this, Defra would set up a Single Farm Inspection Taskforce to cut farm inspections by 20,000 by 2019-20, Ms Truss said.

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