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WHAT A WASTE

 
09:00 - 05 June 2003
 
 The cost of creating a "new identity" for the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is to soar to over half a million
pounds.

The cost of the department's new logo has more than doubled, from
161,500 to 329,000, revealed Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael.

And he said that replacing or introducing new internal signs at Defra
premises was forecast to cost a further 200,000.

The news was yesterday met with fury in the Westcountry rural community.

"It's a complete waste of money," said Westcountry MEP and Conservative
agriculture spokesman in Europe, Neil Parish. "They should be looking at
the way Defra is running its affairs - not its corporate logo and how
many signs it has."

In a Commons written reply, Mr Michael said: "The re-branding exercise
is necessary to establish a new identity, which will assist in
explaining the role and purpose of the new department among staff,
stakeholders, other partners and the public."

He told Liberal Democrat Norman Baker (Lewes) that extensive research
had helped the department develop a better understanding of "what our
customers expect from us".

John Dawe, chairman of Devon National Farmers' Union, said the money
should have been spent on clearing the backlog of subsidy payments to
scores of farmers across the region - some of which date back to 2000.
He said: "They should have put the effort into getting the payments out
on time. This just seems an extraordinary waste of management time and
money."

Anthony Gibson, South West NFU regional director, said: "Substance
matters rather than style. It's the substance of what Defra does, rather
than the way it presents itself, that farmers care about."

He added that the Government should think about changing Defra's name to
incorporate its responsibility to "agriculture".

A Defra spokesman said that the cost of the re-brand - thought up by
London-based brand design consultancy Bamber, Forsyth, Fitch - had
included new letterheads, the setting up of a new website and changing
signs at 200 regional offices.

He said: "All this costs money, but it was money well spent. The project
budget has been managed to ensure we achieved value for money and that
costs were low. The whole point is that we are a new department with a
new name and the re-branding helps explain what the new department is
all about."

Defra's founding during the foot and mouth crisis in 2001 saw the demise
of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. In May this year, it
was revealed that the Government is offering a salary of 110,000 for a
troubleshooter who can improve its image in the countryside in the wake
of the foot and mouth crisis.

Tony Blair's chief adviser on the future of farming will today signal
plans for a major shake-up in the way in which the Government delivers
policy in the countryside.

Controversial Labour peer Lord Haskins was asked to conduct a
wide-ranging review of Defra amid fears that the Government was failing
to deliver in the countryside.

Lord Haskins, former chairman of food giant Northern Foods, will today
publish a brief interim report on the review, laying out the "guiding
principles" for his final report.

He is believed to be dismayed by the plethora of different agencies that
have been given responsibility for various aspects of rural policy. He
is also said to be disappointed by the performance of Defra.

jmcginnes@westernmorningnews.co.uk