from the full report of the Cumbria Inquiry (warmwell's emphasis)       Cumbria County Council have set up a forum to discuss the Report

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

1. In 2001 the UK experienced probably the most serious epidemic of Foot and Mouth

Disease (FMD) ever to occur in a previously FMD-free country. Almost from the start the

epidemic was widespread; there were outbreaks from the North to the South of England, in

Southwest Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. The disease was first detected in mid-February

and the last outbreak was confirmed at the end of September. During the intervening

period 2,026 outbreaks were recorded in Great Britain and 4 in Northern Ireland.

 

2. Cumbria in Northwest England was at the epicentre of the epidemic. It suffered 893

outbreaks and was the second longest affected area. The County, which is rich in natural

heritage and scenically beautiful, has livestock farming, tourism and outdoor recreation

amongst its economic mainstays. The effect of FMD was therefore devastating.

 

3. In addition to the infected farms, a further 1,934 farms were subjected to complete or

partial animal slaughter as part of the disease control and eradication measures. Restrictions

on livestock movements also impacted on non-infected farms, resulting in livestock

management problems and economic losses. As a result of restrictions on public access to the

countryside, tourism, outdoor recreation, public amenities and some public services were also

badly affected.

 

4. The disease eradication policy of livestock destruction on both infected and ‘exposed’

farms required a massive scale of slaughter and animal disposal, and there were problems in

implementation of disease control, communication and other measures. These led to an

upsurge of public concern over the way that the epidemic was being handled.

 

5. When the epidemic had been brought under control and recovery of the economy

established, the Cumbria FMD Task Force and Cumbria County Council considered that there

were important issues that needed to be reviewed as a basis for the development of future

policy. It was concluded and that these would be addressed best through an independent

Public Inquiry with terms of reference to consider:

- the outbreak and control issues

- advice, communication and local and central relationships

- organisational and capacity issues

- impacts on the wider Cumbrian economy

- aftermath, recovery and regeneration

- recent policy developments and future strategies.

This is the Report of that independent Public Inquiry.

 

6. The Report is in four Parts.

The Introduction provides the necessary background to the

disease and to the national policies, and developments in policies, for its control and

eradication.

 Part 2 deals with the FMD epidemic that occurred in Cumbria, focusing on issues

related to its control and eradication.

Part 3 examines the economic, environmental and social

impacts of the disease.

Part 4 considers the future, and particularly the development of the

Cumbria Rural Action Zone (RAZ) programme.

 

7. Almost inevitably, given the nature and unprecedented scale of the 2001 epidemic, the

disease control measures adopted by the UK Government were complex. Policies and

strategies were adjusted to deal with the emerging situation, and both the legal requirements

and implementation on the ground were subject to continual change in order to address

problems as they developed. The Government’s submission to the national ‘Lessons to be

Learned’ Inquiry conducted by Dr Iain Anderson, and the recent National Audit Office report,

give a step by step account of events and decisions that were taken as the epidemic

progressed. This conveys the impression of a considered and measured response to an

escalating animal disease crisis, and recognition that there were some limited problems.

 

8. In contrast, on the basis of the evidence gathered in Cumbria, we found that on the ground

there had been confusion, disorder and delay. In a few cases this was attributed to failures or

errors on the part of individuals. However, in the majority of cases, we encountered

appreciation and praise for the dedication and hard work of the personnel who were actively

engaged in dealing with the crisis. But, we found widespread dissatisfaction with the ‘system’

and with many operational aspects of the disease control and clean-up measures.

 

9. Against this background we have considered organisational structures and resources locally

in Cumbria, as well as matters of communication both locally and with central government

structures. We have then turned our attention to movements of livestock, disease spread,

biosecurity and the disease control and eradication procedures, including the policies of 3km-zone

culls and contiguous premises culls. We have also considered the use of vaccination to

assist in disease control.

 

10. Even making full allowances for the almost unique circumstances that arose during the

2001 FMD epidemic in Cumbria, we were disturbed by the range of systems and

communications failings that were identified during the Inquiry. A lack of appropriate

contingency planning, and a failure to adhere to some of the provisions in the contingency

plan that existed, compromised the FMD disease control campaign from the outset. This was

made worse by the insularity of the local Animal Health Office and by a failure to adopt a

multi-agency approach in shaping its early response to the disease. Things did improve in

later March but the measures effected then should have been in place sooner.

 

11. We have concluded that it is no longer sensible to consider FMD wholly in isolation from

other areas of emergency planning. The devastation the disease can bring is now fully

apparent, and after 11 September 2001 bio-terrorism must be regarded as an additional risk

factor. We accept the rationale of the decision made by Cumbria County Council to await a

lead from MAFF/DEFRA, and not to open the County’s Emergency Centre. However, we

believe that in planning for a future multi-agency response the Emergency Centre should be

considered as a ‘hub’ facility. This should be agreed with DEFRA within the framework of

contingency planning.

 

12. Speed of response in halting animal movements and in making decisions to cull infected

animals or dangerous contacts is crucial in getting on top of FMD, and the evidence suggests

that in the early phase of the 2001 epidemic there were delays that should have been avoided.

There are also indications that the length of the Cumbria epidemic reflected a failure in the

application of the slaughter strategy that was adopted.

 

13. We also set out our concerns over issues of biosecurity and the problem of developing

improved biosecurity against a background of uncertainty about the detailed epidemiology of

disease spread. The scale of the outbreak in 2001 was enormous but, as yet, there is little

evidence that the epidemiological data that has been collected is providing new insights which

will help to develop improved disease control strategies.

14. An integrated risk-based strategy for FMD is outlined, taking account of the experiences

of the 2001 epidemic. This addresses the themes of prevention, planning, prompt response,

premeditated tactics and prepared recovery measures, each of which could be separately

evaluated as part of an overall defence strategy. We recommend that Government establish an

independent Working Party to develop an integrated risk-based strategy using this type of

approach.

 

15. In line with the importance of agriculture and tourism, FMD reduced the economy of

Cumbria by an estimated £266m, or approximately 4% of the GDP of the County. Income

loss to agriculture was approximately £130m, equivalent to 41% of the normal total livestock

output of the County. Indirect effects on the wider economy through agriculture were about

£30m, two-thirds of which related to the effects on the animal feed industry. However,

compensatory payments to farming for compulsory slaughter of livestock provided a positive

cash flow into the County’s agriculture of some £90m.

 

16. The economic impact on tourism varied substantially with the type of tourism business

and its location. However, total revenue was reduced by some £200m, with a further indirect

effect of £60m on the wider economy. In the worst affected areas in June 2001 turnover was

reduced by two-thirds, causing some business virtually to cease trading. The effect on jobs

appeared largely ‘absorbed’ by reduced recruitment of summer workers and by ‘under-employment’

of workers who were not eligible for unemployment benefit or did not register

as unemployed for other reasons.

 

17. Various government schemes were introduced to ease the burden on businesses during the

crisis. Those providing rates and taxation relief or deferments of payments were well

received. State Aid constraints on the structure of the Business Recovery Fund, channelled

through the Regional Development Agency, limited its usefulness. It would have been better

if greater flexibility in the application of the funding could have been exercised. A range of

charitable organisations and local voluntary groups undertook excellent work in meeting local

needs. Considerable leadership was provided through the Cumbria FMD Task Force, which

was brought together under the initiative of the County Council.

 

18. Carcass disposal by landfill, mass burial or burning on pyres raised a range of

environmental problems and exposed significant shortcomings in communication and liaison

between central government departments/national agencies and the local Departments of

Environmental Health and Public Health. Some of the methods of carcass disposal that were

adopted raised significant local issues that should be avoided in any future outbreak. These

have left a legacy of community concern, particularly in respect of the future of the mass

burial site at Watchtree, near Great Orton.

 

19. There was considerable evidence of the impact of the FMD outbreak on community life in

rural Cumbria and on aspects of emotional, social and mental health. These effects are

difficult to quantify on a population basis but results of ongoing research, with a study group

of 54 people from a range of occupations, give cause for concern. Some 20% of the group are

reporting signs of post-traumatic experience and 11% are being treated for clinical depression

or anxiety.

 

20. Based on the work of the Rural Regeneration Team of the Cumbria FMD Task Force,

proposals have been advanced for the creation of a RAZ programme. This covers broadening

the base of the rural economy, renewing and strengthening tourism, developing and enhancing

agriculture, promoting environmental sustainability, and delivering social and community

regeneration. The programme, which is in the final stages of consideration for additional

Government funding, is highly innovative in approach and has the potential to become an

international exemplar in co-ordinated rural development. We have considered the economic

development aspects of the programme, and the needs for programme implementation in

agriculture, tourism and other areas of business, and made specific recommendations.

 

21. We believe that the Social and Community Regeneration programme will go some

considerable way to re-establishing the community frameworks and networks that have been 

damaged or lost during the FMD epidemic. However, we have concerns that there are deeper

societal effects that may be difficult to address.

 

22. During our collection of evidence we became conscious of repeated underlying themes

related to the remoteness of central government from farming practice and the rural way of

life. All sectors of the community expressed disenchantment with the political system and felt

they had been let down during the FMD crisis. This seemed symptomatic of a growing

distrust and community alienation.

 

23. The challenges facing agriculture and the rural areas of Britain are difficult to

overestimate. However, reflecting Britain’s population distribution, urban issues often

dominate political priorities. There is a need to find ways of raising awareness and

understanding of rural agendas and for public policies to be formulated from a practical

understanding of the problems that need to be addressed.