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Audit Reports and Costs to the Taxpayer

 Added by  Sally
 21 Aug 2010, 8:02 PM

The Northern Ireland Audit Office 'The Control of Bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland' dated 18th March 2009, makes interesting reading www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/pubs/bovine/Bovine_Final.pdf.
On page 74 under Conclusions and Recommendations
On the cost of compensation
5.28 The annual cost of compensation rose steadily from the mid-1990s and, while peaking at over £16 million in 2002-03, remains very substantial, at some three times the 1995 level.
In total, some £86 million compensation has been paid in the 10 years to March 2006. Despite concerns expressed within the Department that a change in compensation rate, from 75% to 100% of market value, would make having a reactor more desirable and increase the temptation to ‘invent’ or import reactors, the higher rate was introduced in 1998. It is notable that the move to 100% compensation coincided with a substantial increase in the number of reactors. We note the Department’s comments that there are many factors which could cause a rise in bTB incidence; the change in compensation levels at this time may or may not have been a contributing factor.

Parliamentary Questions -
Cost of badger cull - 26 June 13
Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate he has made of the total cost including policing of the badger cull programme for each badger killed. [161648]
Mr Heath: The badger control policy is based on a cost-sharing approach with the farming industry. The industry will be responsible for the operational costs of delivering culling and DEFRA will bear the costs of licensing, monitoring and policing the policy. The costs to Government for a typical 350 km2 area over a period of four years as set out in the impact assessment are:
£0.4 million for licensing;
£0.7 million for monitoring;
£2 million for policing;
£0.1 million in relation to an increase in TB incidents in the neighbouring area.
We would expect these costs to be offset by savings as a result of reduced TB incidence within the control areas and in neighbouring areas, extending for five years beyond the culling period. The Government currently bears the majority of the cost of TB incidents by paying for TB testing and compensation for slaughtered animals.
(So much for no risk from perturbation from culling badgers !)
Recent analysis showed that rising police costs now meant the cull policy was more expensive than vaccinating badgers.
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/13/badger-cull-activists-protests-police?dm_i=1NFN,1KQON,906LDO,5F2XS,1) has proven, in a lengthy and detailed article, just how much effort is being taken by the police to ensure safety. Police preparing for peaceful protests have carried out wargames with activists and the cullers to simulate confrontations.
According to Mary Creagh in her speech on 5 June 2013 in the Commons (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130605/debtext/130605-0001.htm#13060568000001):
'it has been over £300,000 for licensing activities carried out by Natural England, while sett monitoring has cost £750,000. An independent expert panel to monitor the cull has cost £17,000, and surveying the reserve site in Dorset will add to the total. Since April 2012, six DEFRA staff have been working on the cull. This cull has already cost the taxpayer well over £1 million—before it has even started.'
'What will be the costs to the taxpayer if the cull proceeds? The estimated cost of humaneness monitoring is £700,000, and badger post-mortems another £250,000. The policing costs for each cull area are put at £500,000 a year. There is a strong steer from the police that they will need to send armed officers to police any night-time demonstrations, taking up scarce police resources.'
'The Secretary of State said at the weekend that he wants to roll out a further 10 areas a year for the next two years. He, for one, has already made up his mind on the efficacy and humaneness of these so-called pilots. Assuming he gets his way, that is £5 million a year for the police alone. I think that the police costs are material -'
'because at a time when the police face 20% cuts, asking armed response vehicles to go out into the countryside will take further resources away from the cities, where there tends to be more gun crime, for example, than there is in the countryside. '
'The Government talk about the costs of TB, as did the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray), but in a parliamentary answer to me in September 2011 the then farming Minister, the right hon. Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Sir James Paice), who is in his place, said that the cull would lead to five fewer herd breakdowns a year in each cull area. In 2010, there were more than 2,000 confirmed herd breakdowns in England. If the cull were rolled out with 10 cull areas a year, it would prevent just 50 herd breakdowns a year. The taxpayer costs of culling will not be recouped by a reduction in the costs of bovine TB, so this cull will go on being bad for taxpayers until Ministers cancel it.'
'The UK’s top badger expert. Professor Rosie Woodroffe, has analysed the numbers. The Government estimate that badger vaccination would cost £2,250 and that the cull will cost £1,000 per square kilometre per year, so at first sight the cull is cheaper than vaccinating. However, when the Government’s estimate of the cost of policing the cull—£1,429 per square kilometre per year—is added, vaccination becomes the cheaper option. What a pity for farmers that DEFRA Ministers cancelled five of Labour’s six badger vaccination trials. Early results from the remaining site near Stroud show a 79% reduction in TB transmission to unvaccinated badger cubs, which means that they are almost certainly less infectious to cattle and to other badgers. Two or three years of vaccination would give badgers full immunity as the old badgers died off.'

The two trial badger culls could start any day now. The free shooting method has been adopted because cage trapping and then shooting is said to be more than 10 times more expensive. The actual culling costs are being borne by the farmers involved, who have entered into bonds. However, public money will have to be set aside to continue the culling for the four year period if anything goes wrong and the farmers cannot continue to fund. The amount and risks involved are not yet known.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Vaccination against bovine TB Second Report of Session 2013–14 has been published today. Comments and extracts are included in the forum topics below:
Let's discuss the BCG vaccine
The Skin Test
Wildlife Reservoirs, is the badger a costly distraction, a scapegoat...?
In the report there is a reference to the huge sum the UK receives for its bovine TB policy - it is no wonder there is little hope of any change in policy:
'The highest financial contribution from the EU budget to eradicate animal disease (€31m out of €203m) goes to the UK for its bovine TB eradication programme.'

The Independent has come out against the cull (www.independent.co.uk/voices/editorials/editorial-these-badger-culls-represent-the-triumph-of-politics-over-science-8638306. html?dm_i=1NFN,1J6UG,906LDO,58FSK,1). In its editorial today under the heading, 'These badger culls represent the triumph of politics over science' it says:
"Historically, this newspaper took the view that the risks from bovine TB were so great, and the link to badgers so clear, that a cull, while regrettable, was necessary. Subsequently, however, scientist after eminent scientist has concluded that there is little hard research to justify the decimation of badger populations, which is also passionately opposed by animal lovers. In fact, for all the sound and fury in favour of a cull, Lord Krebs, the eminent Oxford zoologist who conducted the last detailed review of the practice, is just one of an array of experts who have denounced it."
"Neither is there a clear-cut economic case for going ahead with a cull. One recent assessment, for example, found that for every 150km² plot of land where badger-culling takes place, the total costs – including the policing required to deter protesters – come to more than £1.5m. Meanwhile, the savings in terms of TB prevention in cattle amount to only about £970,000. Hardly the best use of all-too-scarce public money."
Police forces in south-west England fear the cost of ensuring the cull can proceed will be higher than originally anticipated (www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/10080626/4-million-bill-and-rising-to-police-badger-cull.html).
New estimates in Whitehall suggest that the cull, due to start on June 1, will cost £4 million to police, which comes on top of the £1 million already spent on last summer’s aborted culling trials.
But, with animal-rights activists planning to trespass on land where the night-time cull is taking place and set up illegal protest camps, senior officials fear the bill is likely to rise.
Police face the prospect of having to keep the peace between militants determined to disrupt the cull and the marksmen, with high powered guns, hired to carry out the killings.
Plans are in place to call on police officers from neighbouring counties and, possibly, private security companies to help maintain order.
Privately, senior officers have described the prospect of widespread protests against the cull as “a nightmare”.
Richard Berry, the assistant chief constable of Gloucestershire, said: “We will deliver our statutory responsibilities, which include dealing with any incidents of crime and disorder and ensuring that anyone who wishes to protest peacefully and lawfully is able to do so.”
The forces will be reimbursed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the cost of policing the cull after it has been completed.
The Control of Bovine Tuberculosis in Northern Ireland
This report, Northern Ireland Audit Office, was published in 2009 but contains some very interesting information about the 'imperfect' skin test, revealing many incidents when it was not carried out properly.
Bovine TB testing procedures (Part 2 of the Report)
• the limitations of the Bovine TB Skin Test in detecting infected animals
• the cost of testing carried out by Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs)
• the quality of work being carried out by a number of PVPs • Departmental supervision of PVP testing
• disciplinary action against PVPs who breach procedures
Compensation, enforcement and tackling fraud (Part 5 of the Report)
• the cost of compensation
• compensation valuations
• enforcement of the legislation
• tackling fraud.

In Ireland €3.4 million has been spent culling 7000 badgers in 2012. This has apparently reduced bovine reactor numbers by 55 so the cost is €61,000/cow!
Seems police forces in Glos and Somerset, venues for infamous cull purported to be starting in June, have no money to 'police' the culls. There seems to be massive public opposition to the proposed shooting of badgers so once it starts and there are protests - and guns - not an enviable task for the police. Could be a massive costs - again - for the public purse.
There are reports that senior police officers have told the Government it will have to draft in private security companies to stop the planned badger culls being overrun by animal rights activists. The two forces involved believe the operation will be a “nightmare” and have told civil servants at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that they do not have the manpower to cope.
The cost to the Government of the abandoned badger culls in the West was yesterday put at £1.15 million, as renewed demands to call off future culls were rejected in the House of Lords.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister, Lord de Mauley, confirmed that culling would be piloted initially in two areas next summer. He added that there had been £750,000 on surveying costs, £300,000 on Natural England’s costs and £95,000 on 'humaneness monitoring' in the period leading up to the postponement in October of trial culls in West Somerset and Gloucestershire
Information from www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Abandoned-badger-culls-cost-Government-1-15/story-17566318-detail/story.html
Liberal Democrat Lord Greaves asked how much the aborted culls had cost and who was going to pay.
Lord de Mauley said there had been £750,000 spent on surveying costs, £300,000 on Natural England's costs and £95,000 on "humaneness monitoring".
Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon in the Forest of Dean, and Labour leader in the Lords, said: "My party still believes there is no scientific, economic or moral basis for culling."
She asked what the cost would be of a more intensive cull and if ministers were confident of recruiting enough marksmen.
Lord de Mauley said the cost of "not bearing down on TB" by controlling the badger population was £90 million a year and rising.
Info from: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/story-17558268-detail/story.html
According to a report in This is Cormwall (http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/Badger-cull-delay-cost-pound-80-000-police-try/story-17370343-detail/story.html) police forces have claimed tens of thousands of pounds for planning security around badger culls which were later postponed.
Chief officers drew up plans for preventing trouble amid fears animal rights activists would clash with licensed gunmen targeting the creatures under the Government's bid to rid the countryside of bovine tuberculosis.
Police forces can ask for extra Home Office cash to police events outside their normal duties.
Home Office Minister Damian Green last night revealed the cull delay could cost taxpayers at least £80,000 as force top officers try to recoup their costs.
Mr Green sad: "The police forces have made special grant applications in respect of the planning costs incurred by them before the cull was postponed.
"We have received claims from two of the four police forces that were involved in the planning process. The claims total £80,000. These claims are currently being considered by the Home Office, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Defra and a decision will be made in due course."
Mr Green revealed the figure following a written Commons question from shadow Home Office minister Diana Johnson.
The Tory minister said he expected the forces to make separate special grant pleas for planning and operational costs when the cull goes ahead next year.
He added: "Any payments made by the Home Office will be reimbursed by Defra.
"We do not yet have estimated costs for the operation that will take place in 2013."
ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/act_getPDFannx.cfm?ANX_ ID=6599
This is the EU audit paper for 2011 and the response from DEFRA. Included are some interesting data and critisms. For example over 1000 cattle per year are being found with gross lesions in abattoirs from herds that are under no restrictions (i.e. have clear tests)....
There also problems with the gINF test, biosecurity etc.
According to a report in the Telegraph on 11 November at www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9667998/Giving-badgers-TB-vaccine-could-avoid-cull.html) figures show the badger cull has already cost the taxpayer more than £1m and the burden on public finances is likely to spike to at least £5m if the controversial policy goes ahead next year.
Figures released on 19 October 2012 by Defra show the 'alleged' benefits to farmers of culling badgers to be £3.68 million (and actually they don't really know if there will be any benefit), while the costs are £4.56 million – not including the bill for policing, estimated at £4 million over four years.
On Friday, it was revealed that the government had to spend £850,000 surveying badger numbers after the data supplied by landowners was found to be inadequate. The government's initial assessment already showed that the cull will cost more than it saves. The Trust is also concerned that the method of killing the badgers allowed in the policy is being changed.
On top of this is the cost for the associated ‘licensing activities’ by Natural England, such as ensuring farmers are trained to kill badgers. This is believed to be in the region of £300,000.
Source: Guardian today (www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/21/badgers-bovine-tuberculosis?newsfeed=true).

Culling badgers is a waste of public money in that it will cost far more than it saves, according to the latest BBC report (www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19981171).
The public costs of licensing and policing will exceed £1m in each pilot area, claims Prof John McInerney (the former member of the government's Independent Scientific Group on cattle TB). Shooting badgers is not a good deal in economic terms and when you take into account the research on the skin test out today (see previous post) then exactly why is the cull going ahead?
Professor John McInerney bases his estimates, which have not been published, on Defra's bovine TB impact assessment.
Based on culling in a 150 sq km zone (smaller than the pilot areas) over four years, he said the total costs amount to £1.55m.
Of this, £215,000 is the cost to farmers of paying for shooting the badgers, while the cost to the public purse for the likes of licensing and policing amounts to £1.335m. Assuming bovine TB falls by 16% over nine years (unlikely according to the most recent research), as estimates from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) suggest, the economic benefits will reach £972,000, McInerney says. This adds up to a net saving for the farmer (£215,000 cost vs £324,000 benefit) but a net cost to the public purse (£1.335m cost vs £648,000 saving).
"Overall it's not a good deal," Prof McInerney, emeritus professor of agricultural policy, University of Exeter, said. "It's a good deal for farmers, given how much they pay towards it, but it's a bad deal for taxpayers in strict economic terms."
He also added that the figures do not include any of the personal, social costs or stress, or the costs or value associated with badgers.
According to a report in Farmers Weekly (www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/22/06/2012/133557/Welsh-farmers-question-rising-bTB-valuer-fees.htmhe fees paid to bovine TB valuers in Wales have risen by 154% in the last five years.
The disclosure has promoted Glamorgan milk producer Andrew R T Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservative Group at the Welsh Assembly, to demand an explanation.
Figures show fees have increased from £158,000 in 2007-08 to £401,000 in 2011-12, even though the total compensation paid out by the Welsh Government has gradually declined, from a high point of almost £24m in 2008-09 to just over £13m last year.
Mr Davies is calling on environment minister John Griffiths to make a ministerial statement on what he describes as a substantial rise.
He said the public was entitled to question why the costs had risen so much.
A different perspective is put forward in a piece by John Kay in The Times at www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b92b78a8-6c37-11e1-8c9d-00144feab49a.html#axzz1pYBA2ITi You will need to register but this is free and if you are interested in this subject the article is worth reading.
It concludes: 'Professor Bourne, chairman of the group of scientists responsible for the evaluation of badger culling, wrote of the political overseers of his work in some of the most scathing language I have read in a dry official report. And political expediency continues to override scientific analysis. We no longer kill heretics to placate vested interests. But we do kill badgers for that reason'.
We heard yesterday that the Badger Trust is to lodge a claim in the High Court to seek a Judicial Review of DEFRA’s decision of 14th December 2011 to kill badgers in England. Full details at www.bovinetb.co.uk/forum_topic.php?thread_id=30 - see posting on 28/2/12.
Yet more wasted money for the taxpayer?
www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla/2012/01/27/ending-of-licensing-of-cattle-onto-otf-w-premises-prior-to-completion-of- first-short-interval- test/
Following an audit last autumn the European Union are not happy with AHVLA's licensing of cattle movements onto restricted farms. The European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), (responsible for ensuring that Community legislation on food safety and animal health and welfare is properly implemented and enforced), the decision has been taken to end this arrangement with immediate effect as it fails to comply with the requirements of EU legislation for TB eradication.
This means that following a new confirmed breakdown, no movements of cattle can take place until the reactor(s) have been taken and then a further test completed after 60 days. Should that test still reveal reactors or IRs, then licensing may be applied for, but cattle coming onto the holding must be isolated.
... and according to the BBC (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-16983519) Bovine TB data is STILL not being published due to computer problem. Problems that have been ongoing since autumn 2011. I wonder how much all this is costing the taxpayer? Since then no data on the number of cattle with bovine TB or their location has been issued by the government. There have also been backlogs in TB testing on some farms.
This means that as preparations begin for a cull of badgers to control the disease there is no up-to-date information available on the spread and incidence of bovine TB for the past four months. Apparently Animal Health and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) based in Worcester said the problem should not affect the cull but it cannot say when the data will finally be released.
In a statement, the AHVLA said it has no time frame for when the statistics will be published and that it is "working closely with its IT supplier and with Defra statisticians to resolve the issues".

The recent news confirming that the Badger Trust has given DEFRA notice of legal challenge is hardly surprising. How much is this going to cost the taxpayer (and the farmer)?
The Badger Trust has sent a letter to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs giving them notice of the grounds of challenge which the Badger Trust intends to pursue if DEFRA does not set aside its decision to kill badgers in its measures to eradicate bovine tuberculosis. DEFRA’s final position should be known by 17 February.
The Badger Trust’s present action follows extensive legal advice as well as correspondence with DEFRA Ministers and officials to clarify the Department’s position on many topics of concern. Officers of the Badger Trust have also had several discussions with Ministers in person before the decision was announced. Matters raised included what has been decided, what else remains to be decided, when, and the process of implementation.
In short, the Badger Badger Trust considers that:
1. the culls proposed will not meet the strict legal test of “preventing the spread of disease” in the areas being licensed, and may amount to a recipe for spreading the disease. Quite contrary to the aims in the strict test set down in section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, DEFRA’s own evidence confirms that the proposed cull will in fact increase the spread of the disease in and around the cull zones. This is because a campaign of culling inevitably disrupts badgers’ normally stable social structures and causes them to roam further in search of food and territory, thereby prompting the spread of disease. Badgers outside the area culled are also likely to roam inward and take over the culled badgers setts. (This phenomenon is specific to badger ecology and social behaviour and is known as “perturbation”). Many cattle farmers in and around the cull zones are understandably very concerned about the risk that bovine TB will be spread onto their land as a result of the cull.
2. DEFRA’s cost impact assessment underpinning the decision is flawed because the cost assumptions are based on the free-shooting option which is assumed to be much cheaper. However, in correspondence with the Badger Trust, DEFRA recently confirmed that, if after the first year of piloting the plans, free-shooting is ruled out for being inhumane, ineffective or unsafe, then farmers will be legally obliged to continue the cull on a much more costly “trap and shoot” basis for the remaining years of their licence (and farmers will have to make a further upfront financial deposit on this basis plus a contingency sum of 25 per cent). These are significant cost risks for farmers but they are not properly reflected in the cost impact assessment which underpinned DEFRA’s decision. This may render the decision unlawful. (Farmers would be well advised to study the impact assessment which concludes that they will be out of pocket, even if free shooting were to be approved.)
3. the guidance which DEFRA issued to Natural England is invalid. The Secretary of State issued guidance to Natural England under section 15(2) of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 as to how Natural England should exercise its functions. However, killing badgers is not in fact one of Natural England’s functions, which are mainly focussed on maintaining biodiversity. Even though DEFRA is making Natural England responsible for the administrative arrangements this does not mean that culling becomes one of Natural England’s functions. Therefore, the guidance was not correctly devised.
The so-called ‘trial’ badger culls are scheduled to take place later this year in two areas yet to be agreed. Most of the costs are supposed to be paid by the farmers but how much will they really cost the taxpayer? What are the implications of such culls for farmers? Will they result in a PR disaster for the farming industry with so much public opposition? Will the costs and effort be disproportionate? Will it lead to disorder, increased public spending on additional policing? Will it be safe? So many questions and the answers will not be known until too late.
Farm minister Jim Paice has admitted DEFRA will not be able to keep the location of the culls a secret from the public. He apparently spoke to journalists at the Oxford Farming Conference today and said that the government and its badger cull licensing body, Natural England, would not announce where the culls were being held but it was impossible to prevent the public from learning where the trials to shoot badgers would be held. “In the end the public will know,” he said. “I don’t deem it possible that once this gets under way that the grapevine will not work. It may seem tough, but farmers and landowners will have to take that into consideration when they sign up to take part in the trial.”
Shadow farm minister, Mary Creagh, has expressed concern about the costs of policing a cull: “Estimated police costs have already risen tenfold to £2m in each cull area over years,” she told reporters. “There are also discrepancies between DEFRA and the industry over how much it will cost to carry out the culls.”
Mrs Creagh said her biggest concern was that the police costs indicated that armed officers would be needed to patrol the countryside to protect farmers and people licensed to carry out culls.

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