FPB: Foot and Mouth report fails to highlight £40m still owed to contractors
A leading business pressure groups says a National Audit Office (NAO) report published today fails to properly scrutinise the Government's mishandling of the aftermath of the foot and mouth affair.
The Forum of Private Business (FPB), which represents many contractors who worked on the crisis, says the NAO report examining the progress made by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in implementing the recommendations of the Committee of Public Accounts, is flawed as it accepts Defra's findings uncritically.
"Defra's behaviour towards contractors, to which it still owes £40m, is deplorable,' said the FPB's Chief Executive Nick Goulding. "It has owed this cash for more than three years and its refusal to pay is seriously hurting and undermining small businesses, some of whom have gone bust. The NAO report has failed to properly raise this issue. Instead, it has taken Defra's figures at face value and failed to critically examine them. Contractors worked in good faith for the Government during a time of national crisis. Defra's continued failure to pay needs to be properly highlighted in public.
Mr Goulding said he is dismayed that the NAO failed to consult with the Small Business Service and Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) when compiling its report.
"The NAO's failure to consult is unacceptable given that the non-payment of contractors has been widely covered in the press and has been the subject of a ministerial statement,' he said. "A ministerial statement to parliament made clear that the BPPG was the appropriate body to examine Defra payment practice."The Forum of Private Business (FPB) was formed in 1977 and is a pressure group fighting on behalf of private businesses. The FPB represents approximately 25,000 UK-based businesses employing in excess of 600,000 people, and is a powerful lobbying voice in both the UK and the European Union.
"The FPB intends to fight tooth and nail on behalf of our members to ensure they are paid what is rightfully owed to them,' he said.
The FPB, as the only full UK member of UEAPME – the organisation that represents small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe – is the most prominent advocate of UK SMEs in Brussels and has a track record of positively affecting legislation prior to its introduction in the UK.
The FPB also provides a range of business services aimed at increasing member efficiency and profitability. Visit www.fpb.org
Ben Pinnington, media manager
Mob: 07775 756306
Kieron Hayes, press officer
Mob: 07775 756308
FPB press office:
Tel: 01565 634709
Fax: 0870 241 9570
FPB, Ruskin Chambers, Drury Lane, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6HA