Friday, November 03, 2006

Agriculture cuts and civil service gobbledygook

According to the Wales Office’s Annual Report, the Welsh Assembly has cut spending per head on agriculture on Wales to £64 a year, a massive drop from the £106 reportedly spent in the previous year.

I raised the matter with Welsh Secretary Peter Hain MP, in the Welsh Affairs Committee last week. Mr Hain told me that the anomaly was down to the new payment scheme. I pointed out that the scheme should not have led to any reduction in spending in the first few years, let alone one of nearly 40% in a single year.

At this point, a civil servant interjected to give the explanation I needed. Here is the quote from Hansard:

“when the Government issues resource accounts as opposed to statements of cashflow, it recognises liabilities, future liabilities when they occur. The effect of that is that when you get a change in the scheme, there appeared an item which was the recognition of future years more than one year ahead and that, therefore, gave an artificial increase in the year in which that was recognised, not affecting the cash payments, but affecting the recognition of the future liability looking more than one year ahead. This is the difference between accruals accounts and cash accounts.”So that’s clear enough!

Actually I wont pretend I understood the answer but one thing is clear.

Either the original figure of £106 per head was simply there to mislead the public or the agricultural budget has been severely cut.

Whichever it is this is bad news for Welsh farmers.