By Emma Parsons, News editor.
Plans to revise the system of emergency compensation for councils should be prioritised to deal with the widespread impact of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, a report from the County Councils Network says.
The government should push through plans to revise the Bellwin scheme which is in need of a 'fundamental review', according to the Local Government Association's special interest group.
'The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has placed a considerable additional resource pressure upon county council services,' says the report, entitled Foot and mouth disease: the experience of county councils.
'As in the case of the flooding events at the end of last year, this emergency is again demonstrating the inadequacy of the Bellwin scheme to compensate local authorities for the additional costs associated with such a situation.'
Work commissioned by Devon CC from the University of Exeter predicted a total of 10,000 job losses across the county in the year from March, and£280m in lost income.
In March, estimates put the loss to the Cumbrian economy as high as£30m a week as the impact of the disease widened.
The report says the epidemic has highlighted the need for a payment scheme 'more appropriate to the needs of a civil emergency in the 21st century'.
A spokeswoman for the DETR said a review of the Bellwin scheme is being carried out, the first part of which is complete and will be unveiled in September.
'We have received representation from the County Councils Network and we will be taking those views into account. They will form part of the review,' she said.
Up to 80% of reported cases of foot-and-mouth have been in county areas and the network's report stresses the need for long-term recovery programmes for local government.
The 'significant disruption' to normal county-level service delivery could mean they will not meet local and national performance indicator targets.
The report calls for the Audit Commission to consider the impacts of the disease when preparing and commenting on performance data.
-Foot-and-mouth disease: the experience of county councils can be ordered from the County Councils Network on 020 7664 3011.