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From the editor: AHDB at a crossroads in wake of horticulture vote

One person, one vote has long been a central tenet of democratic elections and referendums, which makes the muddying of the waters around the AHDB horticulture levy even more perplexing.

With 61 per cent of those who voted believing the levy no longer worked for them, those who brought the ballot were no doubt celebrating their victory. Right up until the point, that is, that AHDB chairman Nicholas Saphir had his say.

 

His view, apparently borne out by the analysis of Engage UK, was that if the vote was scrutinised from a value per vote perspective then 57 per cent wanted to retain the levy.

 

With such a lack of clarity the decision will now fall to Ministers. Maybe in this era of great change for the industry they will be strident and go with the one person, one vote principal, or perhaps they too will get bogged down in the confusion and decide to keep the status quo.


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Whatever the outcome of their debate, the kerfuffle over the levy vote could taint the view of AHDB and Mr Saphir among many levy payers outside of just the horticulture sector. Accountability and transparency are key for any organisation of this type, yet the sentiments expressed by all sides this week do not paint a pleasant picture.

 

Moreover, with a swathe of high profile staff departures announced or finalised in recent months there is no doubt that AHDB is in the midst of a period of great change, with the fierce debate over the future of the levy ensuring the job of the next chief executive will not be an easy one. Not that it ever was.

 

With rumblings of disquiet emanating over the culture of change Mr Saphir has ushered into the gilded headquarters at Stoneleigh, the spat over the future of the horticulture levy will likely add to the feeling of discord inside and outside the organisation.

 

With the future of the horticulture levy far from settled, potatoes now having their say, and other sectors potentially toying with the idea of reform, AHDB and the levy itself could well be at a crucial crossroads.

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