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£19m EU farm fine will hit public services: UFU

By Noel McAdam

Published 27/07/2016

The revelation came in Assembly answers to Ulster Unionist Robin Swann, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a member of the Agriculture Committee
The revelation came in Assembly answers to Ulster Unionist Robin Swann, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a member of the Agriculture Committee

A fine of £19m imposed on Stormont by the European Commission is a "blow to public services", the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has claimed.

The penalty - said to be the result of how farm payment schemes were operated - will be borne by the Executive, rather than farmers.

The UFU claimed it was the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy that was at fault.

It added, however, that regardless of who meets the cost, the UFU "recognises that fines imposed by the European Commission on the local Executive are a blow to public services at a time when the public sector budget is under pressure".

The revelation came in Assembly answers to Ulster Unionist Robin Swann, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee and a member of the Agriculture Committee.

"Maybe if the department had properly understood the rules of the Common Agricultural Policy, they wouldn't have burdened our farmers with such a botched and disorderly implementation, and importantly saved the Northern Ireland public purse £19m," he said.

Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen said: "Disallowance (fines) are applied where the EU Commission determines there were deficiencies in the controls operated in the administration and control of EU schemes. It is good financial practice to anticipate the potential cost."

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