Cuts totalling £45million will be made by DEFRA in the next financial year, following massive overspending of £200million.

DEFRA attributes the cuts to accountancy rule changes, but Allan Buckwell, chief economist at the Country Land & Business Association points out: ?Figures from the recently published report from the national audit office suggest that £177.5million may be attributed to the Rural Payments Agency mess.?

The largest amounts will be docked from the Environment Agency (£23.7million), Natural England (£12.9million) and State Veterinary Service (£3million) budgets. The cuts made to the Veterinary Service have caused concern among gamefarmers, particularly with the threat of bird flu and an increasing number of bovine TB cases.

A spokesman from the National Gamekeepers? Organisation told ST: ?People did raise this issue with the chief vet at a recent bird flu stakeholder meeting. She assured us that the front line dealing with notifiable diseases would not be weakened and we very much hope this will be the case and that the necessary savings can be made elsewhere.?