UFU challenges DARD Direct hours

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is disappointed DARD has decided to reduce the opening hours of DARD Direct offices.

UFU president, Ian Marshall, says that he recognises the difficult financial circumstances facing government departments, but cannot understand the logic of creating a new headquarters in Ballykelly when the department cannot meet day-to-day running costs.

“When the minister outlined her plans for cutting nearly £30 million from the DARD budget we made clear the important thing for farmers was that front-line services were not affected. That is now exactly what is happening,” said Mr Marshall. He said too often government budget cuts hit rural communities hardest.

“Reduced DARD Direct hours will affect farmers completing their Single Application Form (SAF). This is why we are urging the farm minister, Michelle O’Neill, to ensure opening hours are adjusted to meet demand for the service - and to remember why these offices were created in the first place.”

Currently there are 11 offices - Armagh, Ballymena, Coleraine, Downpatrick, Dungannon, Enniskillen, Magherafelt, Mallusk, Newry, Newtownards and Omagh.