57.Defra faces the challenge of delivering vital services with a reducing budget for its day-to-day activities in the coming four years. This challenge is not new: the Department achieved significant funding reductions during the last Parliament. Then, our predecessor Committee expressed its concerns about a hollowed-out Defra’s ability to ensure its wide-ranging set of delivery bodies could deliver effective services. We share these concerns which indeed are amplified by Defra’s need to further reduce budgets. To be re-assured, we need evidence that Defra can provide firm leadership, a clear and well communicated strategy, and robust relationships with its disparate set of delivery bodies.
58.As a Committee we are at the start of a five year period of scrutiny and these are themes which will thread throughout our work programme of specific inquiries. We look forward to a constructive dialogue with the Secretary of State and her ministerial team and officials so as to strengthen the Department’s ability to support rural communities, promote a strong farming sector and enhance the natural environment.
Prepared 14 December 2015