Latest Public Sector News

07.01.14

Private sector funding could help deliver environmental projects

Cuts to the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) could damage the government’s ability to cope with future emergencies, MPs have warned.

The Efra Select Committee called for greater clarity on which policy areas face the largest cuts. The Defra budget has been cut by £500m since 2010 and the department must find £300m in savings by 2016.

It should consider using private sector finance to cover the cost of some projects, the committee suggested. There is also a need to improve staff morale and engagement in the department, their report highlights.

Severe and sustained flooding has hit the UK in recent weeks, leading to damage, disruption, power failures and even death.

Chairman of the committee, Anne McIntosh MP, said: “Defra is a small ministry facing massive budget cuts and which relies on a large number of arms length bodies to deliver many significant areas of policy. Ministers must clarify how further budgets cuts of over £300m over the coming two years will impact on the funding provided to these agencies and the ability of the Department to respond to emergencies.

“Recent flooding events over the Christmas and new year period reinforce the Committee's concerns about cuts to the Defra budget and how these will be realised. The Environment Agency is set to lose 1,700 jobs in the next 12 months.

“We have asked the Department to confirm the amount of contributions received from external sources under the Partnership Funding approach and to demonstrate how the Partnership Funding model for flood defences will deliver much greater private sector funding in the future. This will allow the drainage boards to do more of the essential maintenance work of main watercourses using their own resources.”

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