There have been big cuts in the funds DEFRA has given BW in the last couple of years, and BW falls behind again this year, as the cash settlement doesn't allow for inflation. So who’s got the money that would otherwise have gone to BW?
DEFRA Minister Jonathan Shaw has given the figures that reveal all in a written answer on the funding of DEFRA's "arm’s length" organisations [see report]. The figures look complicated, but helpfully show the comparable increases or decreases in real terms allowing for inflation.
It would appear from adding up the figures that BW's funding has dropped in real terms by £8.95 million from 2005-6 to 2007-8. Only WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) comes off worse, with a drop of £13.43 million. The figures for Natural England cannot be compared, as the figures for 2006-7 included the setting-up costs which, of course, were not needed again in 2007-8.
So who's got more money? Over the same period (2005-6 to 2007-8) Animal Health got a real terms increase of £15.1 million, the Carbon Trust £26.32 million, the Rural Payments Agency £35.9 million and the EA got a staggering increase of £127.3 million.
The troubles of the Rural Payment Agency are allegedly one of the main reasons for DEFRA's woes. The Carbon Trust helps businesses and public organisations to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, a worthy and necessary service, but why should this receive such a big increase at a time when DEFRA claims to be strapped for cash? And why has EA required such a large increase? It makes BW's reduction seem like chicken feed!
A drop in spending power of 8 or 9 million pounds is devastating to a small organisation like BW, but one can't help feeling that it could be absorbed by one of the bigger-spending agencies without anything like the same impact. BW does indeed seem to have been treated unfairly, with the funding axe falling disproportionately on it!
Much of BW's financial shortfall may have been coped with in the short term by cuts in planned maintenance and repairs but this can only lead to bigger bills in future years, repairing failed infrastructure and catching up on the ever-increasing maintenance backlog.