Foot and Mouth
crisis still lingers on in the South West
Two years on from the
Foot and Mouth crisis and many of the contractors in the south west that helped
with the clean-up are still waiting to be paid by the Government says the Forum
of Private Business (FPB). The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs, (Defra) admitted recently that £50 million owed to those who helped
during the crisis is still outstanding. Yet, many in the sector feel that the
real figure may be twice the official estimates.
FPB Public Affairs
spokesman, Garry Parker, believes that a 'political solution' is necessary to
solve the long-running problem. "These businesses were contracted by the
official government department, Defra, to carry out the onerous tasks to clean
up after the foot and mouth crisis. The jobs were completed and now they should
"The claims are legal and
within the remit of contract law and as such should also be treated as
commercial debts within the late payment legislation."
campaigned long and hard to have a statutory right to interest on late payment
and it is in circumstances such as this that these regulations should assist
businesses who find themselves in a tight corner because of deliberate late
payment by Defra. The bill actually requires Government departments to pay
However, a number of
the businesses that are owed money by Defra told FPB that they have been warned
that any claims made under the legislation on this issue would be likely to be
looked at 'unfavourably.' Rick Hopkins, FPB spokesman for the South West said:
"These south west businesses were called upon in the foot and mouth crisis to
quickly help a government to resolve the problem, but their payments have not
reflected the dedication shown by so many businesses to resolve the crisis."
"Legal contracts were signed and then the jobs were completed and now they
should be paid without further delay." "If the government actually owned up and
said that they can't afford to pay now, at least the banks could then arrange to
help with companies' cash flow problems."
"Many of the
businesses with outstanding monies owed by Defra are literally fighting for
their survival and the protracted negotiations that are taking place between
them and Defra are pushing many perilously close to the edge." FPB calculates
that the statutory interest alone on the outstanding monies would amount to £14
million, yet the heavy-handed tactics of a Government department is preventing
these businesses from claiming what is rightfully theirs. Many of the businesses
have had to take legal action to recover monies owed or accept payments for a
fraction of their original bills. They are then unable to talk about their case
because of a confidentiality clause imposed by Defra as part of the
On the Late Payment
aspects of the issue, FPB has the support of the Minister for Small Firms at the
DTI, Nigel Griffiths. He has contacted his colleagues at Defra endorsing FPB's
request for action. FPB Chief Executive Nick Goulding will be meeting with Defra
this week as part of the Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) to discuss the
issues and to plead for early settlement before more business fail. The All
Party Parliamentary Small Business Group (APPSBG) has committed itself to look
closely at the matter and has organised a hearing on November 25 which will be
attended by FPB.
FPB will lobby Exeter
MP Ben Bradshaw, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Defra, at a meeting
this month and is carrying out research in an effort to illustrate the full
extent of the problems facing those many businesses who helped during a
desperate time for many in the rural economy. FPB is keen to hear from any
company that still has outstanding debts connected with the Foot and Mouth
clean-up and will present this information to the Minister.
Any business that is still
owed money is urged to visit the FPB website : www.fpb.co.uk (or call Andy Mowlah 01565 634 467) where they will be able to get more
details about the November 25 hearing and join our campaign to finally bring to
a close a crisis that has gone on far too long.
FPB's mission is to
influence laws and policies that affect private businesses and support members'
profitability. The FPB is the only small business organisation whose policies
are always determined by its members through research, including a unique
Referendum postal ballot.
FPB Press Office
Rick Hopkins, FPB spokesman
for the South West, 01637 830148,