An absence of investment within the UK’s important centre for managing animal disease threats means some amenities are now not match for function and this might go away the nation weak to future outbreaks, a damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has concluded.
It says Defra has allowed the amenities to deteriorate, with ageing buildings in want of main restore, whereas a scarcity of laboratories is hindering work by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) to reply to rising animal disease outbreaks.
The NAO report says the federal government has underinvested within the Weybridge website in Surrey, and the quick-time period “patch-and-restore” method will not be sustainable.
See additionally: Apha laboratory receives £200m to deal with zoonotic illnesses
Defra is engaged on a programme to improve the ability, together with a brand new science laboratory hub and higher infrastructure.
This programme will price an estimated £2.8bn and the Treasury has to date accepted funding of £1.2bn, plus £200m for vital upkeep.
The NAO report says a failure to safe the remaining funding would restrict the advantages of the programme, which endeavours to present scientists one of the best amenities to fight animal disease threats within the UK.
The Treasury is predicted to scrutinise the following stage of the plans in June 2024. Defra will then appoint contractors and expects the principle work to start out in 2027.
The NAO report notes that Defra had made good progress within the starting stage, studying from comparable programmes and initiatives, however it additionally recognized dangers that may have to be managed.
These included guaranteeing prices and schedule estimates are correct, recruiting the required expert employees, and guaranteeing contractors are working collectively successfully.
Gareth Davies, the top of the NAO, mentioned: “Defra has allowed the Weybridge website to deteriorate to a degree the place main redevelopment is now urgently required. Considering the location’s significance to the UK, it has taken Defra a very long time to arrange a programme to redevelop it.
“The division has lately put in place many of the fitting measures to handle the redevelopment efficiently, however it might want to navigate many dangers to ship a website that may shield the UK in opposition to animal disease outbreaks and exhibit worth for taxpayers.”
Lord Benyon, the biosecurity minister at Defra, mentioned the Weybridge website had an extended-standing repute for excellence in science and gathering proof to safeguard UK biosecurity.
“It is correct that we plan to make vital investments into the location, which is why we now have secured £1.4bn of funding in order that we are able to proceed to draw and retain one of the best scientists to make sure the UK’s safety from this sort of menace for many years to come back by way of world-main amenities,” he mentioned.