Defra settlement at the Spending Review 2015

Defra said the Spending Review and Autumn Statement delivers on the government’s priority to provide security to working people at every stage of their lives.

It sets out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the debt. By ensuring Britain’s long term economic security, the government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years.

For Defra this means:
– protection of flood defence funding, including the £2.3 billion 6-year capital investment programme to better protect over 300,000 homes
– over £130 million capital investment in Defra’s science estates and equipment, including funding to enhance national outbreak response capabilities
– £3 billion investment to safeguard England’s countryside through the Common Agricultural Policy, and protection of over £350 million funding for public forests, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty over the Spending Review period
– resource savings of 15% in real terms by 2019-20; delivered through efficiencies within the department and across its network

The government will continue to prioritise investment in flood defences. The government’s £2.3 billion capital programme will invest in over 1,500 schemes to give 300,000 homes greater security from flooding by 2021. Flood defence maintenance funding will also be protected, and Defra will work with the Environment Agency to generate 10% efficiencies by 2019-20 with all savings reinvested to better protect another 4,000 homes.
Long term investment

To maintain its world-class response and recovery capabilities, the government will prioritise spending on animal and plant disease prevention and will invest £130 million capital funding in Defra’s science estates by 2020-21. The government will also continue to invest in implementing its 25-year strategy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis.

The government will invest over £3 billion to enhance England’s countryside through the Common Agricultural Policy and funding for public forests will be safeguarded, with 11 million trees planted over the Parliament. Funding for National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty will also be protected, and National Parks will be given legal flexibilities to allow them to build sustainable, long-term revenue streams and boost growth in rural areas.

Through its ambitious efficiencies programme, Defra will become a more streamlined, digital department, sharing back office functions like IT, human resources and finance with its network bodies to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy, and devolving roles to the local frontline to ensure effective service delivery. Through this programme, Defra will reduce its administration budgets by 26% by 2019‑20, saving £123 million.

Defra will continue to reduce costly bureaucracy and red tape, securing net savings to business of £470 million by the end of the Parliament. As part of this, Defra will set up a Single Farm Inspection Taskforce to reduce the burden on farmers, aiming to cut farm inspections by 20,000 by 2019-20.

Environment 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 to protect the country from floods and animal and plant disease, put in place stronger protections for our natural landscape and deliver on our commitments for a cleaner, healthier environment which benefits people and the economy.Everyone has a part to play in eliminating the deficit by 2020 and, through its ambitious programme of efficiencies, Defra will go further to become a more modern organisation, streamlining services and doing things more strategically.”

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement on behalf of UK food and drink, Ian Wright CBE, Director General of the Food and Drink Federation, said, “Food and drink – Britain’s largest manufacturing sector – has always enjoyed staunch support within government from DEFRA. Naturally we’re speaking with colleagues in that department to understand the impact any cuts will have. It’s particularly important, given DEFRA’s express ambition of helping Britain become a “Great Food Nation” that our ability to continue to grow, be more productive and to meet stretching export targets continues to be championed within government.”

“Government’s emphasis on research and innovation is both timely and heartening. Now more than ever we need more support for post-farm gate, pre-competitive and collaborative research in food and drink manufacturing, all vital ingredients in enabling our sector to take on and tackle today’s challenges, and tomorrow’s. Growing apprenticeship numbers is a key ambition for the UK food and drink industry. Reform is needed to make this route more attractive, and an apprenticeship levy system that is proportionate, simple and works for businesses of all sizes will be a key ingredient in achieving this. The rate announced today will be a cause of concern for larger businesses, and may hit company investment pots for staff training and, perversely, new apprenticeship starts. We look forward to working with the new levy board, in particular to make sure that due attention is paid to improving the quality of apprenticeships, not just increasing the volume.”

Peter Garrat, senior partner at Mathys & Squire, welcomed the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement commitment to investment in science and research and development for the UK and said, “We look forward to seeing how the Government takes forward the recommendations of Paul Nurse’s independent review and hope that legislation will be passed in due course to introduce the new Research UK body that has been recommended in order to work strategically with the seven Research Councils across the UK. The Chancellor has also vowed to invest over £130 million in DEFRA’s science facilities which will be welcomed by the farming community.”

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