Changes to the committees at Defra

As part of the Government’s commitment to radically increase the transparency and accountability of all public services, Defra has announced plans to substantially reform a large number of public bodies.

Defra has been examining its network of arm’s-length bodies to increase accountability, improve efficiency and reduce their number and cost. The intention is to simplify these and increase transparency and accountability. This includes restructuring the provision of scientific advice and a number of existing advisory bodies will be replaced as new arrangements are made.

Defra has been working closely with its two largest environmental arm’s-length bodies – the Environment Agency and Natural England – to ensure a radical and comprehensive package of measures which will transform them into leaner, more efficient front line delivery bodies focused strongly on the Government’s ambitions for the environment and the green economy.

There will be significant change across the organisations, to create a new delivery model that is the most effective and cost-efficient way to deliver, and exert leverage, in support of the Government’s objectives. Both Environment Agency and Natural England will:

  • dramatically reduce their back office costs while keeping to the minimum possible reductions in delivery;
  • work more closely with other arm’s length bodies to eliminate any duplication in the work they carry out;
  • implement demonstrable culture change and lead on innovative new ways of working which will embrace an improved customer focus;
  • stop activity that Government does not need to do
  • stop policy making and lobbying activities.

Recognising their excellent work for Defra, the department has reviewed the role and functions of its scientific and technical advisory bodies to determine the scope for rationalisation where it is relevant and appropriate to do so. The number of Defra’s scientific and technical advisory bodies is to be reduced significantly, with the majority of them becoming expert committees to the department. The Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances, Advisory Committee on Packaging, Advisory Committee on Pesticides will all remain but now become expert committees.