Defra's Animal Health and Vet Lab Agency to merge

Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency are to merge as part of cutbacks in the Defra budget.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: "These two agencies both work to combat animal diseases and, by bringing together their services, expertise and scientific capability, we will improve our resilience and create a strong organisation that provides a range of services from on-farm advice and emergency response to the world-class laboratory work and science for which we are rightly recognised."

The Commission for Rural Communities will also be abolished under new government plans. The organisation, responsible for promoting awareness of the social and economic needs of people who live in rural areas, is seen as surplus to requirements in the current overhaul of all government departments. Spelman plans to have a strengthened Rural Communities Policy Unit within Defra.

The Commission for Rural Communities was established in 2006, and has an annual budget of £5.8m.

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