Issued on behalf of Somerset Local Nature Partnership
Somerset Local Nature Partnership challenges cuts to environment services
Somerset Local Nature Partnership (SLNP), which represents a wide range of organisations and individuals, including RSPB, Somerset Wildlife Trust has today sent a strongly worded letter to council leader John Osman asking him to urgently suspend implementing the cuts outlined in the County’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for its Countryside, ecology and environment services. These were considered by the County’s scrutiny committee yesterday and will go to full cabinet on 6 February.
The SLNP is a Government endorsed partnership working together to promote the value of the local natural environment. The Council has an obligation to consult the SLNP but the partnership says this has not occurred; the process has not had the benefit of expert stakeholder input.
Simon Nash, Chair of SLNP and CEO of Somerset Wildlife Trust said; “As we have understood more about the rationale used to determine the proposed cuts we have become even more concerned. We believe the process to be deeply flawed.”
The suggested cuts came to light following the Council’s publication of the MTFP on Tuesday 22nd January. This contained proposals for nearly £18 million of savings across the next 3 years and included £184,000 (about 1.2%) coming from the axing of ecology and natural environment-related posts [see Note One].
This, the partnership says, has effectively reduced spend on staff working on nature conservation issues for the council from around £211,000 to just £27,000. The partnership says this effectively eliminates the ability of the council to deal positively with the natural environment.
Further to this, the partnership also claims that it jeopardises good work over the past five years that has attracted millions of pounds of inward funding to the county for a wide range of wildlife projects, including £7million to the Somerset Levels and Moors alone.
Nature benefits society, it supports and generates economic activity
Mr Nash continued; “Nature benefits society, it supports and generates economic activity. The financial and social benefits that a healthy natural environment brings are well documented. There is ample evidence available from our own County to show how essential investment in ecological infrastructure is to both small businesses and to the rural economy in particular.
“From clean water and air, to fertile soils and food, Somerset’s natural environment offers us a wealth of free services and goods; these underpin our economic and social well-being. The cuts will compromise Somerset’s environmental assets, and will prove a costly mistake.”
The Partnership is meeting with Councillor Osman before the Cabinet meeting on 6 February. It is also suggesting that people concerned about the cuts should write to the council leader.
For more details, images and to arrange interviews please contact:
Tony Whitehead, RSPB South West Press Officer 01392 453754, 07872 414365
Beth Jerrett, Somerset Wildlife Trust 01823 652413 firstname.lastname@example.org
MTFP report to Scrutiny Committee: http://www1.somerset.gov.uk/council/board10/2013%20January%2029%20Item%206%20Medium%20Term%20Financial%20Plan%20-%20Cabinet%20MTFP%20Report.pdf
MTFP impact assessment (see from page 417)
More on Local Nature Partnerships here