New TB quangos to cost NI up to £20,000 a year

New TB quangos – including TBEP – are expected to cost Northern Ireland up to £20,000 a year, according to the department’s response to recommendations put forward by the TB Stategic Partnership (TBSP).

The figure excludes the cost of appointments and DAERA staff input and comes as the department expects to see its budget squeezed by between £10 million and £20 million in just two years.

The TB Strategic Partnership recommended putting in place a TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP) as well as three Regional Eradication Partnerships (‘REPs’) and local disease teams to respond to serious outbreaks.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said it estimated the total direct cost of TB quangos would weigh in at £15,000-20,000 a year based on the TBEP meeting at least six times per year.

However, farmers at the recent Pedigree Cattle Trust TB conference voiced their concern at “more quangos”, asking what these would achieve.

Responsibility

TBEP is expected to fulfil an expert committee role, providing advice to the DAERA chief veterinary officer and policy makers within DAERA on strategic and operational issues.

It will also monitor the progress of the TB Eradication Programme.

TBEP will have access to the Minister for Agriculture on any significant issue and would be prepared to give evidence to the Northern Ireland Assembly Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee as required.

Its chairman will be paid £350 a day, while other members will receive a daily rate of £250. The committee is expected to meet once every other month.

Regional committees

The plans also propose three Regional Eradication Partnerships (REPs) which would each have a specific focus on TB eradication in their geographical region.

The REPs’ key objective is to work alongside government and stakeholder representatives to aid the eradication of TB in their area and will also provide advice and feedback to the TBEP.

The final layer of quangos would see ‘Local Disease Response Teams’ (DRTs) formed on an ad-hoc basis in response to a serious outbreak, repeated breakdowns in an area, or to deal with particular disease issues.

Payment

However, only those sitting on TBEP will be paid the daily rate – members of the two types of sub committees will not be paid meaning the lion’s share of the cost can be put down to TBEP.

A spokesman for the department said: “The figure of £15,000 to £20,000 is the estimated annual cost of the three bodies, the TB Eradication Partnership (TBEP), the Regional Eradication Partnerships (REPs) and the Disease Response Teams (DRTs).

“The TBEP is the only body proposed within the governance structures where remuneration is paid for members’ attendance at meetings.

Members on the REPs and DRTs would not receive payment for attendance. The figure includes an estimated amount to cover reasonable and agreed travel expenses incurred.

“It was decided by the department that it should proceed to establish the TBEP in order that it could play an important role in consideration of responses to the current consultation by the department on proposals to eradicate TB. It is proposed that the TBEP will be in place by April 2018.”

How they work together

The primary responsibility of the TBEP will be to monitor progress of the bovine TB Eradication Programme and provide strategic policy advice, including bringing forward policy proposals for consideration as required.

This strategic remit will also include participating and inputting to a formal review of the eradication strategy every five years.

However, ultimate responsibility for decisions in relation to policy will remain with the minister.

Meanwhile, the Regional Eradication Partnerships (REPs) will feed in detailed oversight of the operational aspects of the TB programme at a regional level.