Defra in proposed firing line

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be worst-hit by the coalition plans for culling public-funded bodies known as 'quangos'.

A leaked document obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveals plans to abolish more than 50 organisations within Defra, including Food from Britain and the Commission for Rural Communities. Eight regional development agencies would also be scrapped. However, the future of the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the Environment Agency remains unclear, with both under review, along with the Animal Procedures Committee and the Carbon Trust.

Other bodies facing the axe, according to the Cabinet Office list, are: the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards; the Advisory Committee on Packaging; the Committee on Agricultural Valuation; the Committee on Carcogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment; the Farm Animal Welfare Council; the National Standing Committee for Farm Animal Genetic Resources; and the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee.

The Food Standards Agency and the Agricultural Land Tribunal are among 350 bodies that would be retained. Overall, 177 public bodies are to be axed, with four privatised and 129 merged. Publicly-funded government organisations cost an estimated £65bn a year and employ more than 100,000 people.

Guy Attenborough, head of communications at AHDB, commented: "With so many arm-length bodies to review, they probably haven't got round to discussing the merits of the levy boards yet. When they do, the key points are that we deliver tangible business benefits to our levy payers, and we are funded by farmers and growers and therefore cost the Exchequer nothing."

Closing regional development agencies might hit future local abat-toir growth or expansion. Lamberts in Suffolk received £1.4m from the East of England Development Agency, through the Rural Development Programme for England, for a new facility that opened in August.

A spokesperson for Lamberts said: "There is no stronger case for the regional development agency support than the funding provided for our new abattoir, which will create jobs and preserve our heritage of livestock farming and the grazed landscape."

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