Royal Show: Quangos under scrutiny as Tories unveil rural action plan

NATURAL England, the Environment Agency and a number of other quangos could be culled or their powers clipped under Conservative Party plans to cut bureaucracy out of agriculture.

Speaking at the Royal Show today (Tuesday, July 7), Nick Herbert, Shadow Environment Secretary, said the Tories would review dozens of the publically funded, independent bodies to determine their worth.

He said: ‘We must tackle bureaucracy and we need to reduce unnecessary costs. For instance, I would question whether it is necessary for some of the quangos operating under Defra to be engaging with lobbyists and public relation machines and whether that is the necessary part of a quango's activity. In my judgement, it is not and that is the kind of thing we will take a steely look at in our review.'

Bodies such as the Agricultural Wages Board, Natural England, the RPA and the Environment Agency would all face Tory scrutiny, however, when asked which were most at threat, Mr Herbert was non-committal: ‘Watch this space,' he said.

His comments came as the Conservative Party launched its agenda for rural communities – Rural Action.

Bemoaning a decade of decline in the countryside, the Tories said the plan would reinvigorate rural communities by handing power back to local people and cutting bureaucracy out of rural life.

‘Rural England has suffered a decade of disrespect by Labour. Local services have been withdrawn, rural communities have been denied a voice, and power has been taken away from local people,' said Mr Herbert.

“We need a new approach to reverse the trend of centralisation and end the thoughtless dictat from Whitehall. We will return power and decision-making to individuals and communities, so that people have a genuine say over the matters that affect them locally. And we will unlock the potential of the rural economy to deliver jobs from sustainable businesses of the future,' he said.

Under the plans he said the Conservatives would give rural communities the power to resist school closures and money to improve rural transport.

To revive the rural economy he said the Conservatives would cut tax rates for small businesses and allow councils to offer rural business rate discounts.

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