Prospect launches second State of Natural England report

10 November 2020

A decade of austerity with pay cuts, budget cuts, cuts to grants and a decline in staff numbers is putting England’s natural heritage at risk. Click here to read the report

Natural England ‘cut to the bone’ and unable to protect wildlife, say staff

Report warns of ‘yawning gap’ between government rhetoric on environment and reality of years of underfunding

The government’s conservation watchdog has been “cut to the bone”, with staff underpaid, undervalued and overworked and feeling unable to protect England’s most valuable wildlife sites, according to a new report and testimony from workers.

Natural England, which is sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has a range of responsibilities, including monitoring and protecting the country’s most valuable habitats such as sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and national nature reserves (NNRs). It also works with farmers to protect biodiversity and advises the government on environmental policy, planning and licensing.

Defra’s funding for the agency has dropped by £165m since 2008, and as a result it is struggling to carry out these statutory duties, according to Prospect trade union’s Natural England 2020-21 report. “There’s a certain weirdness to working in Natural England in that everyone knows that we’ve been absolutely cut to the bone,” one employee told the Guardian. “Everyone knows we can’t do basic statutory stuff, let alone the bigger, exciting projects we want to do.”

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