Our response to the Spending Review

Wednesday 20th October 2010

Major impacts on vital natural environment work are likely - through the loss of a third of Defra’s budget1 – so The Wildlife Trusts urge the Government to ensure the remaining investment achieves the greatest benefits for the environment.

The review could provide the opportunity to identify where Government investment could achieve greatest value for money. The Wildlife Trusts believe a healthy natural environment is the cornerstone of a healthy economy and a healthy society. Government, private and voluntary sectors and wider society all have a role in helping to create a healthy natural environment.

Paul Wilkinson, head of Living Landscape for The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“We are delighted that the environmental stewardship schemes will remain open to all farmers in England and the proportion of the programme spent through the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) is to be increased by 80 percent over the next four years.

“What funding is available needs to be targeted effectively. Across England, there are at least 40,000 Local Wildlife Sites. Collectively they play a critical role by providing wildlife refuges and by acting as stepping stones to link and protect the suite of nationally and internationally designated sites. Local Wildlife Sites could have a real role to play in the establishment of an ecologically coherent network. As they are so important for nature we must ensure we find ways of investing in them, as part of the recommendations in the Making Space for Nature report, and in taking forward the White Paper on the Natural Environment to be published in the Spring.

“We must find ways to support the recovery of the natural environment in the long term, which are cost effective, sustainable and which recognise its true value. Investing in the recovery of the natural environment and the natural services it provides is a sound investment for the future.”

1. Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
Chancellor George Osborne today (Wed 20 Oct) presented the conclusions of the CSR and announced Government-wide spending cuts totalling £83bn; the deepest cuts ever undertaken in peacetime, averaging 25% for departments over four years. Government spending on the environment is less than £2bn – just 0.3% of total public spending. Of this, around £400m each year is spent on agri-environment schemes. Defra’s settlement includes overall resournce savings of 29% in real terms by 2014/15.

2. Natural Environment Public Service Agreement
Defra has a key priority to securing ‘a healthy, resilient, productive and diverse natural environment’, enshrined in the Government’s Natural Environment Public Service Agreement (PSA) to “Secure a healthy natural environment for today and the future”. The Government says it wants to see biodiversity valued, safeguarded and enhanced.

3. Making Space for Nature report
On recent publication of the ‘Making Space for Nature’ report, (September) which summarised the findings of the Review Group on England’s Wildlife Networks, one of the many recommendations (no 12) was that “Local Authorities should take responsibility for the identification and monitoring of Local Wildlife Sites and the management of LWS must be improved.”

Story by RSWT