Local authority tendering practices are the greatest threat to preventing a government tax on pesticide use, according to the Voluntary Initiative (VI) steering group.
Good progress has been made in agriculture and the group is well on its way to meeting targets before its March 2006 deadline, but more action needs to come from local authority amenity operations.
The VI Annual Report highlights council tenders being assessed on price, not quality, and details failures to adhere to guidelines.
It states: “The amenity sector has little incentive to improve. Professional businesses are often undermined by ‘cowboy’ operators without the necessary qualifications. Any attempt to extend the scope of the VI to the amenity sector must first tackle the problem of enforcement of current best practice and legislation.”
A statutory Code of Best Practice will come into effect early next year to give the initiative more weight in enforcing proper procedures. Operator training events have been planned for later this year on the safe use of pesticides near watercourses.
VI steering group chairman Barry Dent said: “It is vital to achieve our final March 2006 targets.”
Crop protection plans are now in place for 1.36 million hectares, exceeding the March 2006 target of 1.2 million, and 17,500 members are now on the National Register of Spray Operators, four months ahead of the 2005 target.
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