By Audlem Webteam - 3rd November 2006 7:09am
Following Tuesday's story about the group formed to fight the cuts in funding of the canal system, a local resident has pointed out to Audlem Online that the cuts in British Waterways budget by Defra is largely the result of the chaos at the Rural Payments Agency. This is the organisation that pays out EU subsidies and money owed to farmers. This year's lengthy delays in payments meant that many rural communities in Britain were pushed to near financial collapse, with farmers owed £1.6 billion in EU subsidies.
The chaos resulted in a potential fine on the UK Government of £141 million by the European Union. This fine has meant that other Defra budgets have had to be cut, including the funds for the maintenance of the canal system.
The farm payments problem arose despite the then Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, being warned in June 2005 that the project was off course and yet did nothing. The agency's then chief executive was sacked but kept on full pay for six months after his dismissal. The Secretary of State involved was, ahem, promoted to the post of Foreign Secretary.
Research has revealed, however, that others did lose their jobs at the Rural Payments Agency. Four staff were booted out and a further five received written and verbal warnings, not because of the late payments, but because they were caught vaulting over office filing cabinets in the nude!
If it weren't true, it would almost be funny, but that, in a nutshell, is why the canal system will suffer a 15% budget cut this year, our correspondent points out.
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