Devon's concern over DEFRA funding

PUBLISHED: 13:12 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 11:18 17 June 2010

CONCERNS have been raised as councillors discuss future government funding for Devon s defences against diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Blue Tongue and Bird Flu.

CONCERNS have been raised at County Hall as Councillors discuss future government funding for Devon's defences against diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Blue Tongue and Bird Flu.

Last year, DEFRA imposed sweeping funding cuts for animal health work due to miscalculations. £9.7 million had been promised to Councils, but only £8.5 million was actually available.

The cut represented 12% of Devon's budget for animal health work. The Council was forced to make up the shortfall for the year, but unable to make up the shortfall year on year, the service has needed to make savings.

With the reduced budget to remain at the current level until 2011, DEFRA is now consulting local authorities about how funding post 2011 will be calculated. And again, Devon has grave concerns.

DEFRA wants to allocate funding to authorities through a Revenue Support Grant, which could be apportioned by taking into consideration:

(1) the size of the population, or

(2) the number of livestock holdings, or

(3) at the level of the current funding agreement

Either way, Councillors are concerned that at best, this will amount to no more than Devon currently receives after last year's cuts.

But if, for example, a grant was to be apportioned based upon the size of population, then Devon, a mostly rural county, would fair even worse.

If this were the case, the Council estimates that the amount received by Westminster City Council would be similar to that paid for the whole of Devon.

Any funding based on holdings would also not reflect local needs as it fails to take into consideration other important factors such as livestock markets, slaughterhouses, dealers, or livestock transporters.

In response to the proposition, County Councillors have agreed to make their representations known to DEFRA, local MPs and other partners, to press for fairer funding.

Devon County Council's Leader, Cllr Brian Greenslade, said:

"Our fear is that without adequate funding we will not be able to maintain the high standards of livestock disease control and provide such vigorous enforcement.

"The Government gave us the extra responsibilities, and then removed the necessary funding for it last year. It would be better if the Government recognised Devon's needs for prevention against diseases such as Foot and Mouth, Bluetongue and Bird Flu, and reflected it in its future funding.

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