HDC critises economist's plans to reorganise the five levy bodies

Council hits out at Radcliffe review

The Horticultural Development Council (HDC) has hit out at the Radcliffe review of the five horticulture and agriculture levy bodies, which suggests they could save £1m if the Government created a new layer of bureaucracy to collect levies from growers and farmers. In her review, economist Rosemary Radcliffe decided not to recommend merging the five agriculture and horticulture bodies, which raise £60m a year for research projects. But she did criticise the bodies for not telling payers enough about what was happening to their money. She suggested that creating three new companies to share some of the sector bodies’ duties would lower costs. The move would mean that growers would save £80,000, or 1.6 per cent of their levy. Growers pay 0.5 per cent of turnover to the HDC, which provides market research and associated technology transfer for them. Colin Harvey, HDC president, said: “The core proposals will increase costs for horticulture, reduce our focus and divert attention from serving growers. We have concerns that it clouds the accountability of the HDC back to the growers it serves, rather than improving it.” The HDC’s cost of collection is 1.3 per cent of the levy, while the British Potato Council’s collection costs nearly seven per cent. Radcliffe said: “It won’t increase costs and there is no intention to reduce focus. It will help other levy bodies improve their focus. The HDC is doing a pretty good job on research and development. The overall effect on it will be modest.” Meanwhile, the HTA and NFU backed the review as an opportunity to make savings in overheads, improve co-ordination and avoid duplication of effort. There will be consultation until February 2006. See the details at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/ levy-bodies/index.htm. The changes are due to come in on 31 March 2007.

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