Sector to see ‘fundamental reform’ with new levy body

Five levy boards to be brought together

The chairman designate of Levy Board UK John Bridge has stressed that the review into the levy boards is about “fundamental reform” of the agricultural and horticultural sectors. Bridge was making a keynote speech at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists AGM, where he talked about progress in the changes. The five existing levy boards, including the HDC and British Potato Council, are to be dissolved and replaced with a new public body, Levy Board UK. Six new sector companies will be wholly owned subsidiaries of the new levy board. All the structures become fully operational by 1 April 2008, with key implications for governance, accountability, operational activities and efficiencies. Bridge said: “This is not about tinkering at the edges, it is about fundamental reform — making sure that levy board structures meet the demands of the agricultural and horticultural sectors in the 21st century. We are already fully consulting many stakeholders, which, of course, includes levy payers themselves.” Accenture has reviewed horticulture’s needs and how the new company can deliver effective programmes with likely implications for future grower levy rates. Accenture’s February report has provided detailed financial analyses of current levy board expenditure. Each sector is providing the Levy Board UK chairman with an overview of challenges during the next decade linked to broad ideas on activities proposed to meet those challenges. These will be reviewed by Levy Board UK in April. “With six sector plans my board will identify overlap and cross-cutting themes. Duplication will be avoided and maximum co-operation secured,” added Bridge. “We need to marry key levy payer issues including competitiveness, quality assurance, innovation, and consumer information — particularly nutrition — against key factors likely to impinge on growers such as climate change, water management, regulation and global trade. The system must deliver to reduce costs and increase benefits. That seems the pact we need with our levy payers.”

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