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The responsibility for animal health and welfare lies with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In Treasury budgetary guidance, Departments are encouraged not to allocate budgets fully against their programmes at the start of a financial year. This is to allow for contingency planning in the face of unforeseen pressures that emerge subsequently, including their known contingent liabilities.
In exceptional circumstances a Department may make a claim on the reserve. As part of the spending plans announced in spending reviews, the Government allocate a reserve for genuinely unforeseen contingencies that Departments cannot absorb within their departmental expenditure limits.
The overall size of the reserve is set out in Table 1 of the Spending Review document.