Ministry is given a £20,000 makeover

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Professional image consultants have been hired to give a makeover to the embattled successor to the Ministry of Agriculture in the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, is to pay £20,000 to a rebranding company to invent a fresh look and logo for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

A London-based design consultancy, Bamber Forsyth, has won the contract, understood to include instructions for a new logo and corporate look.

Mrs Beckett's department has already spent thousands of pounds creating new signs and notepaper after its name was changed from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food after the last election.

The designers are expected to advise the department about how it can overcome its predecessor's reputation for overspending and incompetence.

But countryside organisations accused the government of an error of judgement. "An image consultant can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse," said Janet George of the Countryside Action Network. "The reason DEFRA has such a lousy image is it has messed up everything it has touched."

Adrian Yalland of the Countryside Alliance said: "The best way to resolve [its image problem] is not by hiring an image consultant but by getting out and talking to rural people."

The cost of rebranding of DEFRA and other government departments after the election is set to exceed £450,000.

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