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Waste omitted from Defra scrutiny report

A analysis of Defra’s spending plans by a panel of MPs has failed to highlight waste-related budgets in a list of those needing protection, with the department facing 15% revenue cuts.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee did not mention waste management in its analysis of the department’s performance for 2014-15, including in its priorities for areas where the impact of cuts must be limited.

The select committees’ office said it “could not consider all policy areas individually” but “the themes underlying the report apply to waste”.

The report addresses chancellor George Osborne’s 2015 spending review, which revealed that Defra resource funding from HM Treasury would fall by 15% by 2020.

It lists funding for flood defences, rural broadband and common agricultural policy as “focused choices” where the department should focus its reduced funding.

The committee called on Defra to issue a statement clarifying where its reduced funding will be spent, after previous frustration in receiving this information.

It says in the report: “We and our predecessor committees have struggled to clarify with successive secretaries of state and senior Defra officials their strategy for determining which policies and priorities will be altered by repeated spending reductions.

“We recommend that Defra publishes urgently its strategic approach for achieving the necessary reductions in its budgets for the next spending review period.

“Detailed plans for implementing this, including how administrative savings are to be made, must then be provided at the earliest possible date.”

It also recommends that Defra inform the committee about its strategy for maintaining morale among staff and for ensuring that valuable expertise is not lost.

Defra’s overall staff engagement score increased by two percentage points to 54% in the latest civil service-wide people survey. This is still five points below average.

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