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We have criticised as weak and ineffective the government’s proposals for monitoring and enforcing compliance with agricultural grants.
In its consultation, Financial Assistance Statutory Instrument, the government proposes to monitor the use of public funds for delivering public goods as part of the new agricultural grant programme post Brexit. However, it only proposes to take action against a breach of the grant ‘when there is serious misuse of taxpayer’s money or fraud’, relying instead on occasional site visits and giving grant recipients opportunities to rectify mistakes.
The society considers that the proposed monitoring regime will invite abuse.
Says Hugh Craddock, one of our case officers,: ‘Defra proposes that inspections should be infrequent, targeted and announced in advance. That will encourage some land managers to take advantage by failing to deliver the benefits for which they have paid in an agreement. Under these proposals, the worst that might happen is an inspection and a warning to rectify the breaches. More likely, there will be no inspection and no awareness that the public is being ripped off.’
‘Defra should get real. While the majority of land managers will want to deliver agreements to the best of their ability, there will be some who do not share those sentiments. The public deserves assurance that its taxes will be used wisely and properly, and that demands regular, unannounced inspections and penalties for intentional breaches.’
Read our response to the Defra Consultation in full here.