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23 December 2006

MSP's Outrage Over Exhorbitant SEPA Charges

SEPA CHARGING SCOTTISH FARMERS £1000 MORE THAN ENGLISH AND WELSH COUNTERPARTS


Banff & Buchan SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson has called for the Scottish Executive to take urgent action to rein in the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) which he has described as completely out of control.


The move comes after Mr Stevenson discovered SEPA was charging farmers in Scotland over £1000 more under the Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control (IPPC) Regulations then the Environment Agency was charging under the same regulations in England and Wales.


And the SNP MSP accused SEPA of squeezing money out of farmers to pay for the vast increase in its own staff numbers.


Mr Stevenson - a long-standing critic of SEPA - earlier this year attacked the agency for charging farmers for using tar planings from roadworks to mend their farm tracks while the Environment Agency in England had adopted a common-sense approach and had waived its charges in a bid to encourage re-use and recycling of the material.


Speaking from his Banff & Buchan Constituency, Mr Stevenson said:

SEPA have been caught out yet again. It is quite clear that their approach is to maximise the amount of money they can squeeze out of farmers in order to pay for the huge increase in staff numbers in recent years.

It is quite incredible that, once again, SEPA have been caught levying charges for licences when the Environment Agency south of the border have demonstrated a common-sense approach to regulation.

SEPA staff numbers have increased from 750 in 1999/2000 to 1145 in 2005/06 and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that they are now trying to find the means to pay for this huge expansion.


SEPA is now completely out of control and is treating Scottish farmers as a ‘milch cow’ from which to rake in the cash. It’s time for some root and branch pruning of SEPA and I am confident that an SNP Government after next May will not allow this costly bureaucracy to continue unchecked.”


Notes:

  1. In a reply to Stewart Stevenson MSP dated 8 November 2006 Deputy Minister for the Environment & Rural Affairs Rhona Brankin advised that SEPA charges were £3590 for an application with annual subsistence charges of £3157 for a large site and £2521 for a small site.

  1. In a reply dated 29 November to Alex Salmond MP, DEFRA Minister for Local Environment Ben Bradshaw advised that the Environment Agency (England & Wales)’s annual subsistence charges were £2794 for a large site and £2229 for a small site. However, after negotiation with industry representatives, between August 2007 and March 2008 these figures will be £1844 and £1471 respectively. This is over £1300 and £1050 respectively cheaper than SEPA’s charging scale. According to the Environment Agency’s website, the application fee in England and Wales is £3331.

  1. Further information on the Environment Agency’s charging levels can be found at www.environment-agency.gov.uk

  1. In her letter, Deputy Minister Rhona Brankin states: “It is for SEPA to explain the basis of its charges and I would encourage you to ask for this information from SEPA’s Director of Finance”, suggesting some unhappiness at SEPA’s position on the part of the Minister.

The total average number of staff employed by SEPA each year since 1999, taken from SEPA's Annual Reports (http://www.sepa.org.uk/publications/annual_report/index.htm), are as follows:

1998/99: 686
1999/00: 752.5
2000/01: 805
2001/02: 874
2002/03: 953.5
2003/04: 1010.8
2004/05: 1076
2005/06: 1145


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