Probe into £300m rural budget

Source: FWi 28 October 2002

By Jane Oliver

A SENIOR government advisor is expected to investigate the way money is spent by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Lord Haskins is due to lead a spending review of the department's £300million budget and whether it has sufficient control of its related agencies.

The move follows a report from a committee of MPs which voiced concern about administration within Defra.

It is thought that the review will focus on the work of the Countryside Agency.

A spokesman for the department said: “Defra has been proposing to carry out the review into the way it delivers rural policy.

"This review comes out of the spending review settlement which set new targets of how the government delivers its policy in rural areas."

The spokesman said there was no timescale for the review as it "was in the early stages and will happen in due course".

"The government set new targets to improve economic productivity and services in rural areas.

"Defra has been talking to Lord Haskins about the review and an announcement will be made soon.”

Lord Haskins is a former chairman of the food industry giant Northern Foods and author of a recent report into the way ahead for farming.

A Labour peer, he headed up the government’s Rural Task Force which was set up after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

David Curry, chairman of the Rural Affairs Committee, which monitors Defra's work, has criticised the department.

He believes it should to be reformed because it is not succeeding after replacing the Ministry for Agriculture Fisheries and Food last year.

MAFF was blamed for not acting quickly enough during foot-and-mouth.