PracticeAccounting FirmsAccountant leads challenge over foot-and-mouth

Accountant leads challenge over foot-and-mouth

Ian Mitchell, a chartered accountant from Brecon, Powys, is the chairman of the UK Rural Business Campaign, set up to challenge the government's handling of the crisis which forced many businesses to close.

The group has accused the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of ‘negligence and an abdication of responsibility’ for ignoring warning signs and failing to stop animal movements in time.

Mitchell said: ‘We have had to mount a legal challenge to force a response.’ The challenge is backed by Class Law, which has written to DEFRA for pre-action disclosure of information as part of its demands for full compensation and a public enquiry.

Stephen Alexander, a partner at Class Law, a firm that specialises in class legal actions, said: ‘This is a straightforward matter of political negligence and an abdication of responsibility – it will no doubt end in the High Court.’

A spokesperson for DEFRA said the department would be considering a response to the campaign, but was unable to say how long it would take to reply, though the campaign has given the department two weeks to respond.

Many businesses, including accountancy practices, suffered when the countryside was virtually closed down during the epidemic.

In its letter to DEFRA, the campaign said: ‘Although the disease has now been eradicated, its scars remain – no longer on the animals, but on the lives and the livelihoods of thousands of people.’

Although farmers have received more than £1bn in compensation for slaughtered animals, the National Farmers Union estimates non-compensated costs for farmers alone stand at a further £900m.

Many accountancy firms have said they experienced a significant drop in business during and after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

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