North West Waterways could be first in a line of victims of Defra’s cuts

Job losses result from Beckett’s blunders

Brussels, 10th October 2006 – The effects of Defra’s £200 million budgetary black hole are beginning to be felt today after British Waterways announced 180 job losses – leading to fears that some of Britain’s canal network will close.

Sir Robert Atkins, Conservative deputy leader in the European Parliament, blamed the huge overspends in Defra’s budget on Margaret Beckett’s blunders as Environment secretary. The shambolic administration of the Single farm Payment caused many British farmers hardship at the beginning of the year, but now the effects are being felt much more widely as Defra struggles to balance its budget. British waterways is the first in a line of cuts Defra will have to make – which could see flood defence programmes, environmental protection schemes and possibly even rural development programmes cut.

Sir Robert said:

“These are just the first cuts we are going to see coming out of Defra as it attempts to close the black hole it created through its own incompetence. Many British farmers have suffered needlessly because of the single farm payments crisis that Defra brought upon itself. Now the effects of this shambles are being felt across the country in job losses, and the loss of a great British tradition.

“This could be disastrous for the North West canal network and will have a knock-on effect on the countryside, with fewer people spending money at local pubs and amenities next to the Cut. We should be opening up more networks, not closing them.

"The blame for these job losses and cuts rests with former environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, who orchestrated the farm payments crisis.”

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