Responsibility is key to animal health bill move

English livestock producers will be represented on a new Health Partnership Board (HPB) aimed at discussing how the annual bill of about £300 million paid by the UK government for animal health can be reduced in the future.

In a surprise move, the main recommendation of the Responsibility and Cost Sharing (RCS) committee announced yesterday did not immediately suggest a levy on all those keeping cattle, sheep or pigs.

Instead, Rosemary Ratcliffe, chairwoman of the RCS committee, wanted to see involvement in determining the responsibility of problems established prior to any discussion on animal health cost sharing.

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Her committee's recommendations relate to England, with an announcement expected imminently on the Scottish solution to who pays for animal health costs.

Even though the UK government has decided to slash the number of quangoes, Ratcliffe's committee considered the establishment of a new type of body, the HPB, could provide solutions to the drain on public funds.

She said: "Animal keepers face a stark choice: cuts will come anyway and the choice for them is whether to leave the decisions on what and where to cut to government or to participate in responsibility sharing."